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The Storytellers Say

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The voice that crackled in over the radio was hazy, cut through with static and panic, but the words were distinguishable as the captain and Forrest stared out into the stars before them with nothing left to do but listen.

"'That was Flint's treasure,'" Wiser read, "'that we had come so far to seek…'"

"Stevenson," Forrest supplied beside her. "Treasure Island."

"Didn't take you for much of a reader."

Forrest smiled enigmatically.

"'How many it had cost in the amassing,'" Wiser continued, "'what blood and sorrow, what good ships scuttled on the deep, what brave men walking the plank blindfold, what shot of cannon, what shame and lies and cruelty perhaps no man alive could tell.'" His voice began to waver as he reached the end, whether from motion or sentiment. "We will do our best," he said, the background noise and static growing to a din that nearly drowned him out. "To make the most of it, this fortune that we have been granted." His voice faded to nearly nothing as he signed off, "Godspeed, Nautilus."

"Fair seas, doctor," the captain replied into the nothingness he left behind.

When she looked over to Forrest, she found that the distant smile remained on his face, the lights of the console before them reflecting brightly in his eyes. "And now," he said, "to paraphrase a contemporary, 'And to the question…'that which is far off and exceedingly deep, who can find it out?,' two alone have the right to give an answer – Captain Glass and myself.'"

She laid a hand against the Nautilus's control panel, letting out a low laugh. "Fitting," she said dryly. The floor shifted beneath them as she accelerated. "Into the maelstrom, then?"

"Lead on, captain."

The engines hummed in response, an alarm blaring to life by her side that she reached out to silence, leaving them lit by its flickering red glow. "Fuel tanks," she explained, and he gave her a lopsided smile.

"You're a hell of a shot."

"You blew up my ship!" she objected. "On purpose."

"Not yet," he said. Another emergency light flared to life above his head, this one silent, lighting him blue, catching and sparkling against his exposed wirework. "Give it a few minutes."

"MOTHER?" the captain said.

"Yes?" MOTHER replied, her voice echoing sweetly around them.

"Could you let us know when we've reached a region of space beyond the gravitational pull of the planet?"

"You have already done so, Captain Glass," MOTHER assured her. "My projections no longer show any possibility of the Nautilus falling to the planet following its destruction." There was a faint pause. "You have done well."

The captain opened her mouth, ready to object to the praise, to point out that she wasn't a construct like Forrest with a directive to follow. Instead, she watched the stars blurring around them, thinking of the sight of the Ark descending safely to a clean, new, blue planet, and she said, "Thank you," quietly instead.

Silence fell between them, uneasy but companionable, and the captain turned her focus to the many stars around them, imagining a future when the humanity on the surface of the planet below may one day find themselves among them.

"I never said," Forrest finally spoke up into the quiet, eyes still on the darkness before them, "but thank you. For talking me down earlier."

"Feels like kind of a waste of my time, at this point," the captain replied. "You don't need to breathe."

"I don't," he agreed, "but I was panicking about the water. I was designed to withstand leaks – I did swim at Cornell, by the way, during my assimilation – but I wasn't sure how thirty years of stasis may have affected the protective coatings. I was concerned that I might malfunction and be unable to carry out my assigned directive."

"Which was?" she prompted.

"Facilitate where possible. Witness if no other course of action remains."

"Witness?" she repeated, voice coming out thin and strained.

"For the denizens of the Ark, in the event that none of the crew survived. The Ark itself and the escape pod contain uploads of all data gathered and events observed during the course of my mission, up until the moment they lost contact with the Nautilus. I'm continuing to attempt to transmit my final files as well, but am not certain of the range of my capabilities, so the files that Dr. Wiser has access to when he lands may be incomplete." He looked upward, directing the next words to MOTHER. "I will do what I can."

"I know, Forrest," she replied.

"I just want to help." There was a plaintive note to the words, almost wistful.

"You did," MOTHER assured him. "You all did."

He turned to the captain. "By the way," he said, "I'm sorry. About your family."

She gave him a wry smile. "Well, if we're what passes for what you've got, then I guess I'm sorry about yours, too."

He returned the smile. Another alarm sounded, and this time when the captain reached out to silence it, she didn't pull her hand back. Instead, she reached toward Forrest, tangling her fingers into his.

His hand was a patchwork of soft warm skin and cool synthetic material. His fingers tightened around hers, and when she looked over at him, his eyes were on the stars.

"'I have by me,'" he said, "'for my comfort, two strange white flowers…to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man.'"

"Wells," she replied.

"Didn't take you for much of a reader," he responded, returning her words from earlier.

"Guess we were both wrong."

"In that case," he said, "if you're up for a game of Scrabble…?"

The final sensation that Captain Seraphine Glass felt, before all was light and sound, fading into an endless darkness, was the feeling of a burst of laughter welling up in her chest, a comforting hand around her own.

She closed her eyes and tightened her grip, holding on to the last.