Excerpt: Extinction and Kapitan Gore find a target

Image taken through a periscope

Kapitan Gore and Extinction find a victim.

In chapter 20 of Carbon Run, Brother Martin Scribb of the Penitents of Saint Francis is rising in the ranks of the corsair submarine Extinction. The sub prowls the Arctic Ocean, searching for ships carrying a valuable, illegal cargo. In this excerpt, Kapitan Gore finds what he’s looking for.

The decision to accept Kapitan Gore’s offer of “freedom and wealth” came easily to Martin. He had known plenty of the alternative since his disidentification, and although he still held hope of finding Molly Bain and the possibility of redemption in the eyes of the larger society, Martin saw Extinction as a way to hedge his bets. Gore would extract some sort of price for his generosity, though Martin had no idea what that price was.

One day, the captain invited Martin to the control room, where every officer, male and female, greeted him with contempt. Martin recognized Nelson, whom Gore introduced as his executive officer. Lurking near a holo-console was Reason, Gore’s tactical officer and well as chief thug.

The submarine wandered the depths endlessly–from Martin’s perspective–until late one evening, when the crew was ordered to action stations. As crew scrambled to their posts, all the submarine’s watertight doors were sealed. Gore had removed the escape pods from the crew compartments. If Extinction were disabled or sunk, the dissed and others who were not on duty would die. Martin’s compartment, in contrast, had a lifeboat, though he had no idea whether it would function if and when it was deployed.

Nelson’s voice came through the intercom. “Martin Scribb to the control room. Martin Scribb to the control room.” Stunned and afraid he had done something wrong, the monk clambered through companionways and up ladders to the brain of the boat. Gore, Nelson and other officers hunched over a monitor table.

“Brother Martin, do join us.” Gore was ebullient. “I was beginning to think our hunt would be fruitless. But one of our drones has found a target.”

Martin approached the table, uncertain what to expect. An officer nudged him aside and Martin peered at the table. Numerous images and readouts, constantly updated, filled every inch of the surface. Martin recognized some of the information: sea temperature, salinity, speed, course, and so on. But some were mysterious, although he recognized the chemical formulae for various hydrocarbons. Martin also saw various images in infrared, normal, and intensified light with its characteristic green tones, though it wasn’t necessary in the 24-hour day of the Arctic. The “target” was a sailing ship.

Gore spoke in a kind of gurgle. “Ladies and gentlemen, the sensor array is giving us a strong green signal. I propose we investigate. Objections?”

No one said a word.

“Very well. Mr. Nelson, stand by to deploy countermeasures. Mr. Reason, standard boarding procedures. Mr. Scribb, would you care to join me in the gig?”

Martin was unsure of Gore’s meaning, or why he wanted him to be part of an apparent attack on the ship, but he nodded anyway.

“Excellent. Follow me, please.”

A moment later, Martin, Gore, and two other crew with stasers and ordinary pistols crawled into a submersible. Gore himself sat in the pilot’s chair. The submersible undocked from the mother boat and glided downward into semi-darkness. As he stared out a viewport, Martin’s anxiety level rose, but not to the level of panic. Gore’s handling of the submersible was so smooth that the sensation of floating was soporific. The only jarring note was Gore’s constant back and forth discussion with another submersible, which was out of view.

Martin became aware of an increase in light filtering from above. His ears popped and Gore turned to the pair of armed crew. “Stand by,” Gore said. Then his lips pulled back, revealing teeth that dripped with saliva, as if he were ready to pounce. “Three, two, one, GO!”

A hatch opened and Martin was blasted with chilly air that smelled of sea salt. The armed crewmen bounded out of the hatch, and he glimpsed a rust-streaked wall and lettering that spelled out Aganippe. The hatch closed and Martin felt his stomach lurch; the submersible was sinking. Martin gripped his seat, his gorge rising, and the sensation of falling stopped. Semi-darkness enveloped the submersible, and Martin realized they were under the sailing ship, perhaps hiding from defenses. Within seconds, however, Martin heard Gore whisper something into his mic with the word “secure.” He brought the submersible back to the side of the ship and surfaced.

Gore loosened his crash web and slipped out of the pilot’s seat. “Let’s go see what we’ve found, shall we, Martin?”

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