Wednesday, July 7, 2410
21° 12' N, 158° 7' W
Pacific Ocean, Earth
Corwin Ravenhair stopped the Zodiac when his omni-tool told him they had reached the correct coordinates, then listened carefully as the swish of the inflatable through the water died away to silence. He heard nothing, felt nothing other than the gentle swell of the ocean. They were far enough from land now that surf wasn't an issue, though in some part of his mind, he couldn't shake the impression that he could still feel it, looming behind them.
Turning to the other person in the boat, he asked, "Anything?"
Iona sat quietly for a moment, as if she, too, were listening for something; then she shook her head and replied, "I'm not detecting anything, but my scan range is limited," she added, a very faintly apologetic tone creeping into her voice.
"Mm," Corwin not-really-replied. He looked around, saw nothing but the near-flat grey of a just-predawn sea, and then said, "Well... it wouldn't be my first choice of time or place to do something as obvious as this is probably going to be, but..." Then, shrugging, he rose to his feet and went on, "Let's get to it, shall we?"
Iona stood as well, effortlessly balancing in the faintly rolling craft, and stood facing him, her face perfectly composed. Corwin gazed thoughtfully down at her for a few moments (he had little choice in the matter, given that he stood more than a head taller), then closed his eyes and raised his left hand, touching a fingertip to the silver cuff earring he wore.
The runic engraving on that earring glowed at his touch, dimly at first, then more brightly. The brand on his forehead glowed with it, and as the light brightened, its shape changed, the simple circle with a dot in the center becoming two concentric rings, linked and slightly overspread by three equidistant lines, a bit like a gunsight. He wasn't breaking the seal that kept most of his divine power in check for Midgard's sake; rather, he was dialing it momentarily back, so as to access more of that power for this one specific purpose.
Placing his hands on Iona's slim shoulders, he opened his eyes, looked straight into hers, and began to speak - his voice low, but charged with that fresh infusion of power:
Fallen warrior who sleeps in this place,
Cut down in defeat by an ungracious victor,
Off to the east, the dawn broke, the first diamond arc of the sun springing into sight and spreading its orange rays across the surface of the sea. As the light fell across their faces, Corwin smiled slightly and went on, his voice gaining strength in time with the brightening of the sky.
Wake from thy dreamless slumber.
Wrest thyself from the slime of the depths
And the depth of the ages.
Drag thyself from the cold and the dark
And taste again of warm air and sunlight.
I am Corwin of the Raven-Hair,
Watcher o'er the World-Engine,
Lord of Great Machines,
Chooser of the Slain.
By my Will and by my Power,
I bid thee rise!
As he spoke the last word, a brief but brilliant shaft of white light burst from the expanded brand on his forehead and into the sky, like lightning in reverse, and its thunder crackled across the empty sea. Fizzing slightly with a discharge of excess energy, the brand fell back to its normal configuration, its glow and that of his earring going out... and for a moment, that seemed to be all that was happening. Looking faintly puzzled, Iona gave him an inquisitive tilt of her head.
Corwin smiled slightly and released her shoulders, wiping a light sweat from his brow with one forearm. "Wait for it," he said, resuming his seat and gesturing for her to do the same. "It's a long way down from here..."
As she sat down, Iona was about to ask what was a long way down when, a few dozen yards off the Zodiac's port bow, the sea began suddenly to boil. Or at least that's what it looked like - the surface upheaving and sliding away, as when the hot bottom mass of water begins convecting to the surface just before the onset of a good rolling boil. No bubbles, but a massive disturbance all the same as if something enormous were forcing its way up through the sea...
... until, in a tremendous geyser of spray, a vast grey-and-red shape lunged up through the surface, like a freight train roaring out of a tunnel, but at a near-vertical upward angle. It climbed inexorably higher until it towered like a strangely angled office building. Gleaming and wet, it hung suspended for a long, impossible-seeming moment, then crashed mightily down to the horizontal, hurling out a wave that made the Zodiac buck like an airplane in a storm.
Iona's sea-green eyes, never particularly narrow, now went even wider than usual as she recognized the massive object, its lines as familiar to her as those of her own face. Probably more so, since long before Iona existed as the petite silver-haired young woman now unconsciously rising back to her feet in the still-rocking Zodiac, the shape she was now looking at had been her own: a submarine, vast but sleek, her upper deck dominated by a great cylindrical structure (itself the size of some smaller subs) and an off-center conning tower. On the sides of that conning tower were painted her only markings:
Despite the centuries she had spent on the bottom of the ocean, the vessel looked brand new, as if she had just sailed out of the finishing docks at Kure.
Corwin sighed. "Yep, knew that was comin'," he said. "All right, let's get aboard and start phase two. We don't have much time before they're doing more than just scanning."