Illustration by my wonderful wife, Katie
"Get your asses out of that boat!" Crichton overpowered the Inspectors in the Channel.
"I believe he's fergotten how to thank someone," whispered Corman.
"What were you thinking? They voted against you, so you throw your life into the wind?" Crichton stopped inches from Quincy's face, which was still healing from a wolf scratch.
"I never planned on throwing anything in the wind," he got out, despite how shaken he was at seeing Crichton panic.
"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Redwing," said Maselyn. Crichton's brow curved up at her.
"Redwing?" he echoed. Quincy started to explain, but Crichton interrupted, "We'll talk upstairs. Where's Mabel?" Quincy clenched the paper in his pocket.
"Like you said, talk upstairs," said Maselyn.
"You're sure you know what she was thinking?" Quincy whispered to her on the way.
"Follow my lead. You will too."
The Summit was as quiet as the funeral half of them had come from. Levi, Adrian, and Crichton sat across from Quincy, Corman, Maselyn, an empty chair, and a silver radio. Quincy wasn't proud of the hopeless one-sided conversations he'd had with it when he was alone.
"Corman. Was any part of this your design?" Levi's crisp syntax broke the tense peace.
"I appreciate the compliment, Scopes, but me interests in the Summit were purely of the bootleg trade variety." Levi's green eyes shot to the youngest Summit-nominee.
"Quincy, then. Tell me, permitting everything, what turn of events brought you back with Maselyn instead of Mabel." No length of time could fully prepare him to present the story, so he settled for a few seconds.
"I snuck onto the Lake Lady. I convinced Corman to take me to the Avalons. We met with Mabel and stood before the Tribunal. Turns out Bragg hasn't been filtering the water at Silvereach, and he's holding medicine over the Tribes' heads. I told them the Summit could help, but I had to climb the Spire to prove it." Levi's iris' spun narrow, scanning him for tells.
"You must have succeeded," he motioned to Maselyn, "What do they call you?"
"Redwing," Quincy opened his coat to show the downy puff called May. Levi crossed his arms. His lip gave the slightest twitch.
"A Ranger named Raines came for me... sent by Bragg, I guess," Quincy cringed, reliving the lightning-lit nightmare, "It was so fast... it shouldn't have happened. She... died in my place." The Summit went heads-down, in disbelief, in grief, in tribute to Mabel's empty chair.
"You defeated Raines?" Levi asked. The heads came up.
"Corman shot him." Eyes from around the room gravitated to Callous Regis Corman, Dread Captain of the Lake Lady.
"You ran from your admittance hearing, sailed with a pirate, joined the tribe that betrayed us, and got our connection to the biologists killed," summarized Levi. Quincy fired him a loose, affirmative, finger-gun.
"Put it on my headstone," he said. Levi nodded.
"The vote for Quincy's admittance stand as three against, considering Mabel's, and two in favor. Maselyn. Casualties as a result of your betrayal were minimal, and your fleet secured our victory today. Your reinstatement in the Summit begins with this hearing. How do you vote on Quincy's admittance?"
"Actually, I'd like to make a motion" said Maselyn. Levi turned her a suspicious eye. "For Corman to join us." Levi looked as if he might actually laugh.
"We went over this, in your absence."
"Motions can be repeated," Maselyn bounced back, "And I repeat the motion for Corman to join us. He's done enough, with no payment, uncharacteristic as that might be."
"For," Charlotte crackled through the radio. Levi shot the little box a vicious look.
"For," was Crichton's vote.
"Against," Levi smoldered.
"Against," Adrian said, though he smiled at Quincy, who now understood, just as Maselyn said. He cleared his throat.
"I have Mabel's will," he unfolded the note on the table, "That Corman be admitted." Fewer people than believed it could refute it, with her one-of-a-kind seal emblazoned red. Levi's fists clenched against the table as he said,
"By majority vote... I hereby induct Regis Corman into the Netherworld Summit." Their newest member called order with his fist-gavel almost immediately.
"I vote Quinster join me, in me esteemed new position."
"As do I," said Maselyn. Quincy's face heated behind a cringe, but Levi took defeat with astounding dignity. He looked Quincy straight in the eye, his own narrowing and widening with the alternating focus of his lenses.
"Against my prescription for your survival: welcome to the Summit, Quincy. I suppose we have some filling in to do, once you and Corman have been inspected."
"My office is on the ground floor, towards the back. I'll see you both there," said Adrian. Quincy and Corman gave him a united nod.
"Someone will find you outside to get you to your rooms. You're free to enjoy the island until we send for you," sighed Levi.
Quincy hadn't had time to absorb the novelty of a room with a bed before a tap shook his door. He dragged himself to greet Crichton.
"Inspections run this late?" Quincy squinted into the yellow hall light of his new apartment complex.
"No," Crichton chuckled,"Just a delivery," He adjusted his stance. On top of the late hour and exhaustion, seeing Crichton unsure made it feel downright illusory. "When we couldn't find you, I knew you'd done something stupid... I picked this up in case you were stupid enough to come back." Crichton left Quincy no choice but to take the bound notebook when he thrust it into his chest.
"Wha-wha..." Quincy held it up. It had a rugged charm, even at a glance, "Thanks Crichton. I think," he added when he realized he'd been proven stupid, twice.
"Just keep doing what you do." Crichton nodded, as if it was an entirely fulfilling farewell. He left Quincy standing in a yellow cone with the nicest sketchbook he ever owned.
YOU ARE READING
Strand: the Silver RadioScience Fiction
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