Chapter 10: Bleak Horizons

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It was still raining.

Callie watched the speedship come down from dark, gray skies. A cold dislocation had settled over her since putting the call in. It was the same feeling she'd endured when watching that strange silver ship disappear into the far horizon with Allan onboard. A kind of frantic mania had taken over not long after that, forcing her to move through the corpse-strewn corridors of the black castle, digging for intelligence on where that fucking AI might be going and how to stop it. She'd found that data, what little of it there was to find, and had put in the call to Hawkins to come get her, updating him on the situation.

Unfortunately, he was still twelve hours out.

So she'd dug through the database as much as she could, but it had hardly yielded anything at all. The information was too corrupted, both by time and poor maintenance. All she'd been able to pull out was that Erebus had two more facilities even deeper beyond the Far Reach. All she had for them were coordinates. No idea of what was out there, what kind of environment they might be built in, what kind of forces might be guarding them, local wildlife, atmosphere, gravity. Nothing. All she had were some coordinates.

But it was enough.

The speedship settled down in one of the courtyards big enough to support it. Callie started walking towards it, her whole body feeling sluggish and heavy. She felt like she could sleep for years and honestly, part of her wanted to. The situation she found herself was so stressful that some of her just wanted to shut down. She didn't want to face it. But the rest of her forced her on. She knew that she couldn't do that.

She had to keep going.

Callie cycled through the airlock, listening to the sounds of it as it matched atmospheres. When the inner doors opened, she stepped out into the small receiving bay beyond and patched her comms into that of the speedship's.

"I'm in, we can go," she said.

"Got it. Are you okay? Are you the only one?" She recognized the voice of Amy Weller.

"I'm the only one. I'm physically undamaged," Callie replied.

It wasn't technically true. She was bruised and some of her joints felt pretty strained and she had an awful headache, but all of that was nothing compared to some of the injuries she'd endured before. Or how she was feeling right then emotionally.

"Okay...I'm taking off now. Come up and see me," Weller said.

"On my way."

Callie made her way slowly through the small vessel. There was a lot to do: brief Hawkins, visit the infirmary to make sure she didn't have any serious internal injuries, prep for the next mission, shower, inventory her supplies, somehow find time to eat a huge meal because she was fucking starving...

Too much to do.

As she came onto the bridge, she felt the ship shuddering as it lifted off and began exiting the planet's atmosphere. She came to stand beside Weller, staying silent as she worked the controls and guided them offworld.

"What happened? Where the hell is Allan?" Weller asked. "Hawkins didn't tell me anything, just that I had to come down here and pick you up."

"The others are dead, Allan was captured."

"Oh fuck," Weller replied. "We're going after him, right?"

"Yes," Callie said firmly, staring at the thinning atmosphere beyond the windows of the cockpit. "We're going after him."

* * *

Hawkins was waiting for her at the airlock.

"What do you have for me?" he asked, turning and leading her out of the receiving bay. The pair of them strode quickly through the network of corridors.

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