Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Debris By Catherine Baird

There was no sign of a vessel. No blip, no lights. She scanned the sounder screen – nada. The water was dark, metallic against a washed out sky. Nothing could survive these conditions. She radioed back to Centre – told them as much. Continue the scan, they said. Two pods were unaccounted for after the last mission.

She expected July to be stormy, but the height of the waves was remarkable and the relentless movement was hypnotic. She injected another vial of caffeine into her portal and stretched, marked off the grid and headed for the next. Waste of time, she mouthed, tapping out an impatient rhythm with her fingers on the control pad.

A double blip shook her from the repetitive swish of the needles and the sounder garbled out the co-ordinates. It couldn’t be a sentinel – must be a long fish or a dolphin, she reasoned, a shadow on the surface. The numbers repeated and the nose of the pod dipped. The steadying action of the motors made her feel nauseous until her body accepted the new motion and she took a deep breath and shook herself.

A boat was below. The inhabitant was waving up at her. A boat. With a person in it. A sentinel right enough. Her first.

She sent down the cords and the girl was lifted from a trough of water a hundred feet deep. She was raised up to the pod, the engines humming louder as they adjusted for the new weight. The water crashed over the boat and it bobbed upside down then righted itself. She felt a thunk as the loading dock closed and the change of air as the new passenger’s temp was taken into account. Sentinels never brought anything but themselves so it was believed, but that couldn’t be true. Mentors had a song about it, how sentinels were messages adrift in the ocean, and no boat had ever been recorded.

Until today she’d never questioned that. Maybe this waving girl was something else. She watched on the viewer as the girl strapped herself into a seat, instructed by automated commands. The girl looked up at the camera and waved again. She had a metal cuff on her wrist and the computer listed her injuries– contusions and scratches, no broken bones or deep wounds. She must have come from somewhere. The girl called out something but the language was unclear. It came up on the screen - Translation starts: I belong to you now. Ends.

She saw the tiny boat dip and resurface again and sent a spare cord down for it. No point leaving debris, she said.

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