Hidden Pages – Chapter 36 – Cheating Fate


Riptides have a tendency to drown people. That wasn’t a problem for Beth given the ultra-tech space suit she was wearing but it did present her with a barrier to resurfacing in a still breathing state. Her father’s history books were fine with bodies being swept away by underwater current. People escaping death below the waves in bulletproof space armor however was a different matter.

“When we get close to boat, we’re going to have to shut down our suits,” Beth said, using the suits sensor suite to peer through the churning waters and angle towards her father’s ship.

“I don’t do so good with breathing water,” Starshine said.

“Not saying I want to shut them down, but if we don’t they’ll fail on their own,” Beth said. “This world’s got something like a special kind of radiation that interferes with electromagnetics.”

As explanations went it was several zip codes away from the actual story, but Starshine hadn’t absorbed the whole “you’re a part of a story and none of this is ‘real’ in relation the world I come from”, so Beth stuck with an explanation that could have appeared in the Measureless Stars. Radiation. It was essentially magic for some SciFi authors and while the Measureless Stars was generally good about acknowledging real physics, it had its share of plot convenient departures from science.

“Ah the joy of travel,” Starshine said, accepting Beth’s words without question.

That was a little of character for her, at least from the novels that Beth had seen her in, but Bet had to wonder if there was a unconscious bit of self-preservation in there too.

Lagressa and Starshine were both outside their native milieus. Beth could travel the Unread, but neither of them were supposed to have powers like that, which left Beth wondering how dependent on her their existence in an alien environment was.

There didn’t seem to be any physical drain on Beth to have companions accompany her from world to world, and it didn’t seem to require any concentration either. When Lagressa had fallen too far behind her when they were racing across the sands of the Galactic Library’s surface though Beth had felt a bond between them starting to tremble and grow weak. If it had snapped entirely, what might have happened?

At the very least Lagressa would have disappeared Beth thought. Whether she would have faded back to where Beth found her in Elgamire Woods or if the Lagressa Beth knew had an existence beyond the character described in the book wasn’t something Beth felt like putting to the test under the circumstances.

With her father’s ship fast approaching, Beth was forced to focus on more immediate matters though. Like how they were supposed to get on board a ship that was sailing for maximum speed.

“It looks like we’re passing the first ship,” Lagressa said. “Did you plan to board the lead vessel?”

It wasn’t an entirely bad idea. If Beth could capture de Rais, the chase would end and the history books could sort themselves out. Except her father hadn’t done that already, and de Rais or someone on his side, seemed to have access to the same story-altering skills that Beth did.

“No, I just didn’t want to come up behind the ship or we’d never be able to catch up to it,” Beth said. “If we let the current carry us in front of my Dad’s ship, we can cling onto one of the lines that’s trailing it when it floats past us.”

That proved to be a lot easier said than done.

Deactivating the space suits was easy for Lagressa and Starshine. Lagressa was a transhuman magical construct who only appeared as a human girl because it was convenient for her to look like that. She was as likely to drown as a fish was and had the strength to punching a hole in the hull if no other means of entry presented itself. Starshine wasn’t quite so superhuman, but being omni-talented and having the sort of reflexes that only appeared in action movies meant their present heroics wouldn’t even rate as a footnote in her diary entry for the day.

Beth, for all her newfound capabilities, was still just the normal girl she’d always been. Or close to normal. The chill of the water rushing back over her would have been panic inducing if she hadn’t been ready for it and able to suggest a likely manner for her to have survived the trip underwater.

Dolphins rescue sailors, or so the stories say, and that was all it took for Beth to arrange an aquatic rescue for herself.

One moment the Atlantic was trying to drown her (after she turned off her space suits force fields) and the next an unbelievably strong body was surging beneath her and lifting her to the top of the waves.

Whatever she’d been expecting, her imagination hadn’t prepared her for what riding a dolphin was actually like. For one perfect moment, she was convinced she’d found her missing place in life and that she’d be content to be a dolphin rider for the rest of her days.

Then she heard the cannons booming again, and saw a shot splash into the water nearby them.

In the Unread, there was a buzz of angry French whispering, and the sense that seeing someone saved from the ocean was such a blatant sign of witchcraft that the lead crew would certainly try to smite her from the ocean.

Beth wasn’t sure what happened, but it felt like the whispers cut off in a harsh squawk. She couldn’t be sure why the angry French story had backfired but it did suggest to her that she shouldn’t push her luck with her own “good fortune”.

With a final hug, she let her dolphin rescuer return to frolicing in the waves and turned to find her father’s ship bearing down on her.

It seemed a lot bigger up close than she’d imagined it to be.

And it occurred to her that her father wasn’t expecting to see her here.

If he thought she was someone else on de Rais’ side, then the guns on his ship that were being turned to point at her might be a bit more of a problem than she’d bargained for.