For life, Sathona dove. For vengeance, Xi Ro dove. And Aurash dove to understand.
The needle ship pierced the skin of the world and burrowed deep. Through layers of foam and metal and cold elemental slush. Aurash devoured the ship’s maps of Fundament, from the high angelic cloud decks, down and down through storms and oceans and plates of floating world, into the crush of the core.
They met monsters of continental scope. Vast anemones that raised glowing tentacles to bait them in. Xi Ro flew the needle ship through them and they bled black carbon jelly and frost.
They came to a still place, beneath a plate of metal.
“I’ll use the sensors,” whispered Aurash. “Listen...”
In the wet gold dark of the helm, they listened to the ship, and the ship listened to the crushing motions of Fundament.
They heard the collision of continents. They heard the patter and the crash of helium-neon rain. They heard the struggles of monsters. And they heard the distant groan of the ocean rising. Tugged by distant moons.
“The syzygy is real...” Sathona hissed. “It’s already begun.”
Behind them, Xi Ro thought of the birthing-room, where ancient explorers had labored over surgeries and administrations, peeling back the chrysalis and the caul of that which they had made from the deep, whose birth none of them would survive...
“There’s something down here,” she whispered. “Something secret.”
And the Leviathan loomed over them, its brow as huge all the continents of their childhood, its great array-fins crackling with the lightning of its life. Booming into the hull of the needle ship in a microwave voice:
++YOU MUST TURN BACK—
—SAVE YOURSELVES FROM THE DEEP++
++SAVE THE WORLD FROM YOURSELVES—
—YOU MUST TURN BACK++