The Cube - Chapter 1 - Who is Celeste?

Were you disappointed by the ending to the series Lost? What follows is a story with as intricate a mythology as Lost’s but with an important difference: in the end it is all explained mechanistically, without resort to mysticism or religion. In the end the following summary of the core mystery, taken from the opening chapter, will be perfectly sensible:

    The Oopsah told a story, a majestic, exalted, beatific story of the coming of the end times and the rise of the Controller. He learned how the world would end, who would destroy it, and how he, Zranga, could prevent it. He learned that he had been appointed by destiny – by the Controller himself – to carry out this mission. But above all he learned of the existence of a perfect being, the demigod Celeste, trapped beyond time in a cycle of eternal death. Only Zranga could rescue her, and to do this he had to place a giant door on the bottom of the Silent Sea, and kill the Great Man.

Read on to found out how far Ivy Morven will go to stop Tobor Zranga from realizing his destiny, and how this alternative universe is bizarrely structured so that the most rational acts are the most extreme.

Chapter 1 - Who is Celeste?

Tobor Zranga was seated on the ceiling, his gravity reversed. Through a window in the wheelhouse he could see whitecaps as the ocean roiled about the vessel. For Zranga the sea and sky were inverted, the sea forming a watery heaven, the sky falling away into an abyss. He knew that if he climbed through the window into open air he would tumble away from the planet to certain death, his body falling forever through outer space. Up and down were now relative terms, with down for him being the direction called up by the locals. It was a hostile and vertiginous world, as if he were condemned to live in a crow’s nest, teetering above an infinite void. One slip without a fastener meant a trip to oblivion, and Zranga did not like fasteners; safety devices that impeded his freedom felt like shackles and he refused to wear them.

His countrymen had a term for this condition – liquid sky – and anyone from his homeland who visited the Silent Sea without proper acclimation suffered from it. The only way to acclimate was to consume the local water and food until one’s body was composed primarily of local matter, causing gravity to pull toward earth. This was a slow and nauseating process with a disorienting period of weightlessness if one went straight from up to down skipping the horizontal directions. Dark Harbor was full of conversion spas but Zranga did not have time to reorient. Even with advance planning he would not have reoriented for he did not want to take the time away from Skava. The opportunity for intrigue in his absence was too great.

It was highly unusual for a man of Tobor Zranga’s stature to take operational control of a mission. He was a Council Minister at a level in the hierarchy beneath only the Great Man himself, and Ministers did not inject themselves directly into secret operations. The consequences of capture were too great with the potential compromise of state secrets and loss of Party leadership. The mere fact that a Minister was on the mission would reveal its importance and render official denials implausible. Zranga had not originally intended to supervise the operation personally. When asked by the Council why he would travel to the bottom of the world for an operational task, he said he had lost confidence in Project management. If he was to be intimately involved in the Project, he was going to personally ensure that the individual components under his supervision were properly executed. What he could not tell the Council was that he had already learned with mathematical certainty that this particular component would fail without his direct intervention, and that the failure would lead to the apocalypse.

Zranga had never before been on the open sea beyond the sight of land. The heaving of the waves combined with the relentless fumes of the stabilizer left him sick to his stomach. To control the nausea he fixed his eyes on a single point on the inverted horizon where the faint glow of sunlight peered under the edge. Yet the sun itself had never shone upon this accursed sea, and sailors claimed that prolonged exposure to the darkened waters would deaden a man’s senses. From his perch on the ceiling by the window Zranga saw how quickly the sky turned black as it fell away from the horizon, how brilliantly the stars shone through the void, and how sharply the angled moon displayed its pocks; he saw this only peripherally as his eyes remained fixed on his comfort point.

Curiously, the trawler did not careen on the waves but maintained a fixed location, rising and falling on a perfect vertical line even as the waves broke past in various directions. For this trawler was not an ordinary ship. It was a disguised periscope affixed to a much larger vessel, a cavernous metal structure lurking beneath the ocean’s surface housing a series of enormous spools of steel cable. These spools fed into four apertures in the floor of the housing from which an object of imponderable size was being lowered to the bottom of the ocean a hundred and forty miles below. Only a handful of men on this mission knew what was attached to the cables, and the description defied comprehension. It was a giant door, vainly intended to control a source of unlimited power being tapped on orders of the Great Man.

“Friend,” a voice interrupted Zranga’s ruminations, using the preferred salutation of the Party. “Try some of this, please.”

It was the navigation officer handing him a sachet of hibiscus. Zranga was not one to take favors for he did not like to feel indebted. To accept an offering from a subordinate carried with it an expectation of protection, and Zranga knew this officer could not be allowed to survive the mission. He took the sachet anyway and tucked it into his lower lip. The officer stood on the floor of the wheelhouse beneath Zranga, their heads nearly on the same level. Zranga still found it disorienting to see a man from an inverted perspective, with the officer standing upright on the floor while he remained seated upside down on the ceiling. It was evident the officer wanted to make conversation. The minder had disappeared below deck and there was no one of appropriate rank to silence the officer other than Zranga himself.

“Friend,” the officer repeated. “Do you know the duration of this mission?”

Zranga glared at him coldly.

“I am sorry if I overstep,” he continued. “I have duties in Skava, and I have personal responsibilities. I was stationed in Dark Harbor for five months and have had no contact with my family.”

The officer did not know Zranga’s identity and would not have spoken familiarly had he known he was a Minister.

Zranga responded deliberately. “I am not privy to that information,” he lied, “but I am certain we will soon see port. The recovery has been a failure.”

The cover story for the mission was that a perimeter ship had foundered in a storm. The ship contained sensitive intelligence that Skava needed to recover before Arland did.

All hands were commanded not to ask questions under penalty of death. To maintain secrecy, information about the mission was strictly controlled. Workers in the main housing beneath the trawler were aware from the unwinding of cable that an object was being lowered, but the cables penetrated the hull in four separate compartments divided by bulkheads, and the most that one grunt could discern was that a single cable was being lowered. He did not know what was happening in the other chambers and could not deduce that the object was large enough to require four points of support covering an acre. Coordination of the lowering was achieved through a network of catwalks spanning the four compartments allowing simultaneous views of the work areas. Spools not yet in use were kept hidden in storage areas and brought out as connected spools fully unwound. By rotating crews no individual worker could learn the depth to which the cables were sinking, for this information alone could derail the Project if leaked. In the prep level beneath the main housing workers in compartments separated by the same bulkheads had affixed the cables to hawsers on the object protruding into the lower housing. Each crew knew only of its own hawser and had no knowledge of the dimensions of the object. The object itself had been affixed by catches to the bottom of the vessel but the catches had long been released, with the object – the door – now descending on the cables miles below the surface of the ocean.

The vessel’s location had been obscured by a circuitous route so hands on deck could not keep track, but the navigation officer knew exactly where they were, over the deepest section of the ocean, and he did not believe this was a coincidence.

“I will like very much to return to port,” the officer continued. “Do you have a family?”

It was a more complicated question than the officer could imagine.

Zranga did not respond, choosing instead to stare out the window. He had no interest in this man’s company.

“If you are ill I have a ration of tack. It will help settle your stomach.”

Zranga turned to the officer. “You may go about your duties, sir. I am well provisioned.” The word “sir” from a superior was a reproach.

The minder re-emerged from the stairwell and approached the officer swiftly, stopping inches away.

“You have orders not to speak, do you not sir?”

The officer stammered, “Yes friend.”

“And were those orders not clear?”

The minder stepped back and prepared to backhand the navigator violently across the face.

“He offered me hibiscus,” Zranga intervened. “You may stand down.”

Zranga saw no benefit to confrontation. The operation was winding down and the men posed no threat. There was nothing anyone could do to compromise security. The ship was on radio silence and the crew, the expendable portion, would never again see dry land. The original plan had been to return to the outer buoys and ferry the men by tender to Dark Harbor where they would be debriefed by the Interior Ministry and selectively executed. The housing would then be sunk to a depth of ten miles, beyond the reach of Arland’s probes. This plan carried risk, for Arland patrolled the harbor and could board the tender without cause. So the decision was made to sink the housing with the crew on board, solving two problems at once. It was Zranga’s idea and he was pleased with the efficiency of the plan. Some men naively believed that if they faithfully discharged their duties they would be protected from harsh measures. Zranga understood that the price of being a grunt was that you may be called upon to perish for the greater good. The consequences of this mission being leaked were too great, and the value of the crew too insignificant, to take any chance of exposure. Zranga took a certain pleasure in knowing he would never himself be wiped clean like mold from a toilet, as he liked to say. If the machinery of the state ever turned on him, it would be because he was too powerful.

For Zranga was a powerful man, more so than even the Great Man realized. He began his career as a codebreaker in the cryptology division of Interior under the old regime and retained that position after the revolution. He soon discovered his true passion was organizing and he swiftly rose through the Party apparatus, eventually landing a portfolio with Demographics. But he never completely abandoned his first profession, and in the sleeping hour when insomnia struck he would pore through his endless charts and tables to decipher code samples. With unlimited presumption he turned his attention to the most important question in cryptology and, arguably, the most famous problem in the history of mathematics. He had no formal training in number theory and perhaps such expertise would have been a hindrance, for he approached the question as a simple packing problem in a manner no mathematician believed could yield a solution. Yet little by little he began to make headway, and then in a series of bursts of insight he uncovered the holy grail of cryptology, a simple formula for factoring indefinitely large numbers. He cared little about the historical significance of his solution for what mattered to him was politics, and since all modern codes depended upon the impossibility of factoring large numbers, he had discovered a key to decrypting any secret message whether from Arland or Skava.

The solution was only as good as its secrecy because as soon as it became known the encryption methods would change. So Zranga resolved to keep his solution to himself until he could devise a plan for containing the secret while exploiting it. In the meantime he began to decrypt messages from his own government to test his method. He had access to the data stream through a simple tap in Demographics, as little effort was made to hide internally what was thought to be unbreakable. And he learned the degree to which he and the other Ministers were monitored by Interior, and to which his life was threatened by the paranoia of the Great Man.

What happened next was as shocking as it was subversive. In the mythology of the Church, the sacred text – the Oopsah Fajuyt – descended from heaven a thousand years ago and foretold the future. The Order of Fajuyt was formed to guard the secrets contained in the Oopsah, and its first injunction was that the future not be altered. Anyone with knowledge of the future had the power to change it, but those in the Order were sworn to take no action that could disrupt the course of history. The Oopsah told of the advent of a Controller, a future savior with the power to change destiny who would arrive in the end times and direct the planet’s future. The purpose of the Order was to preserve the future for the Controller, to bequeath to Him the planet in its ordained state from which he could lead the people from the brink of destruction to a new salvation.

For generations the Order kept the sacred prophecies to themselves, protecting the future from change and awaiting the coming of the Controller. But the end times never arrived, and the prophecies of the Oopsah gave way to an indecipherable gibberish for hundreds of pages. Knowledge of the future was lost. It was believed in the Church that these inscrutable pages contained a divine plan. Zranga was an atheist and had no patience for mysticism and religion but he appreciated a challenge and the gibberish of the Oopsah’s final pages was the ultimate test of decryption. For centuries amateurs and professionals alike had attempted to make sense of the tangle of letters. But the judgment of historians was that the gibberish of the Oopsah was a hoax, a deliberately obscurantist work created by fraudsters in the Church trying to lull the sheep into obeisance.

The entire gibberish had never been released by the Church. When Zranga tried his new method on the book of gibberish included with the standard text, he was astonished to see the letters become intelligible. What he read was of little significance to him but his curiosity was piqued. He had to have the entire text. The Church of the Holy Sarcophagi was in Rixjrig, the capital of Arland, enemy territory which Zranga could not visit personally. It was rumored though never officially acknowledged that the original text of the Oopsah, including the unpublished books of gibberish, was kept in a vault buried deep beneath the Church’s lower crypt. With frightening intensity Zranga embarked on a plan to wrest the sacred text from the Order, which remarkably still existed after so many centuries. He could not operate through his network in Skava for fear of revealing his codebreaking solution to rivals in the Party, and he had to penetrate the defenses of a secret society in a hostile land.

Zranga was nothing if not resourceful and he quickly realized the one lever he could pull. If the mystics in the Order wanted a Controller to fulfill their sacred vision of salvation, he would give them one. He recruited an agent stationed in Arland to approach the Church with a remarkable story. With the rise of the Great Man the end times had arrived, and the Controller had arisen from the dust of the earth to guide humanity toward salvation. A great war would ensue and the future of the world would hang in the balance. For it was ordained by fate that all creation would be destroyed and only the Controller could change this destiny. The agent came as the personal emissary of the Controller seeking the divine plan contained in the Oopsah. It was the sacred duty of the Order to provide it.

The agent was not the first crackpot to approach the Church with an adventist tale but he had something no other supplicant could bring – a partial translation. Zranga coached the agent to be breathless and bug-eyed, to wear only rags and not bathe for days in advance. The ruse almost failed for there was no way to prove the translation of the published gibberish without revealing the key, which Zranga refused to provide. But he had supplied the agent with substitution instructions for the first thousand letters of the unpublished text. He had never seen this text and had no idea what it would say but he presumed correctly that it would pick up sequentially from where the published gibberish left off. With this demonstration of divine knowledge the agent was granted access to the vault, a monumental structure with thick walls made of a strange metal – Zranga would later learn it was a molybdenum alloy – within which rested the original Oopsah Fajuyt.

The Oopsah itself was a marvel to behold, the text engraved on hundreds of metal sheets standing vertically in a cubic frame with open sides. The sheets were each taller than a man and could be tilted for viewing but not removed without disassembling the frame. On a pallet underneath the frame lay a modest coffin. The agent thumbed through the sheets one after another to expose their surfaces, laying rolls of paper across the engravings and rubbing imprints of the mystical letters. Tobor Zranga was an impatient man. While waiting to learn of the outcome of the mission he could think of nothing else but the joy of decoding the Oopsah, of cracking the divine code. He expected to uncover nothing of interest, just the ramblings of religiously demented minds, but he would be the first to solve the mystery. It would be a challenge met and the organizing principle of his life was to identify and meet challenges. When the rolls of paper arrived through the clandestine trail Zranga breached protocol and sent a personal thank you note to the agent.

Zranga did not believe that words alone could change his worldview. Words could educate, enlighten, amuse, arouse, but there was no such thing as a series of words that could compel him to believe in religion. The world was determined by clearly defined physical laws which could be induced by observation. God talk, as he called it, had no place in understanding these laws. When people spoke of deities, angels, spirits, and miracles, they were engaged in delusional thinking. It was literally impossible to learn something about the real world through such thoughts, and the metaphysical world which such words purported to describe was inherently unknowable. Inevitably the purpose of god talk was to cow people into submission, to obtain their allegiance and resources for the profit of holy men. Accepting such beliefs was a sign of fealty to a master, not the attainment of knowledge. It was to wear a badge signifying membership in a community of dupes. Such communities were not without benefits, providing a framework for social support and comforting beliefs in sympathetic deities, but the price of admission was participation in mass delusion.

Quackery was endemic to religion because a church based on rational beliefs would be no church at all. What would it matter if two people agreed on the boiling point of water? This would say nothing about their social relations other than that they could agree on readily observable facts. But if they both believed that upon completion of a set of rites dictated by a holy book they would gain admission to an afterlife in a heaven filled with pastel paisley palaces, they would be unified in their delusion. Their common beliefs would make sense only in the context of the larger community which carried with it a set of rules governing their relations. Religious scholars called the foundation of such beliefs faith. Zranga called it dimwittery.

Zranga laid the impressions of the Oopsah on drafting tables in a former clean room in the Demographics Institute. It was a windowless room to which only he had access, at the end a corridor with a right-angle turn to cut off the line of sight. He then left the papers for a day so he could savor the moment. Here was a profound mystery, the greatest in the history of cryptology, the gibberish of the Oopsah, and he was going to solve it. He expected to find meaningless god talk couched perhaps in apocalyptic terms of the end times and sacred controllers. But his initial translations of the early sheets were entirely sensible if mundane, terse descriptions of historical events written in the archaic style of the Oopsah. Zranga lacked the patience to decode the sheets chronologically. The work was tedious and he was eager to move on to latter sheets, presumably written later in time, in the hope of finding more interesting material. If it had been a murder mystery he would have skipped to the final chapter to find the culprit, disinterested in the plot lines leading to revelation.

As he moved among the pages deciphering random passages something alarming happened. The passages shifted in tone and began addressing him by name. Zranga stopped decoding and for the first time in his life doubted his sanity. He quickly dismissed the thought and decided that the agent who brought the rolls was playing a trick, perhaps carrying out a reverse operation for Arland. Zranga would deal with the agent decisively. But he was drawn back into the clean room, deeper and deeper into an unfolding mystery. The Oopsah told a story, a majestic, exalted, beatific story of the coming of the end times and the rise of the Controller. He learned how the world would end, who would destroy it, and how he, Zranga, could prevent it. He learned that he had been appointed by destiny – by the Controller himself – to carry out this mission. But above all he learned of the existence of a perfect being, the demigod Celeste, trapped beyond time in a cycle of eternal death. Only Zranga could rescue her, and to do this he had to place a giant door on the bottom of the Silent Sea, and kill the Great Man.

Tobor Zranga had finally found a mission worthy of his ambition.

Zranga discovered over the course of his days of translation that words alone could change his worldview. Everything he had believed was important before – the Institute, the Party, the Hutman cause – faded into insignificance. The world was nothing like what he had imagined it to be. It operated according to a vast and secret plan unknown to any living being other than himself, and he had gained access to this forbidden realm because he was the only person on the planet smart enough to factor indefinitely large numbers. He now had at his disposal knowledge of the future and the power to change it. Tobor Zranga had found religion, yet he was still an atheist.

On a trawler on the Silent Sea, an image haunted the mind of the man on the ceiling. He had seen the face of Celeste in the only picture reconstructable from the Oopsah. He had never known love before. He was indeed incapable of loving anyone but himself. But he was now devoted in his entire person to the salvation of this perfect creature. When he proposed this mission to the Council, Zranga said it was to safeguard the planet from destruction, but he could not have cared less about the planet. The purpose was to save Celeste. The fumes from the stabilizer continued to nauseate him. He thought he heard the navigation officer speaking but he paid no attention. He had no need of hibiscus. What he needed was upwater. His supply was exhausted and it was nearly impossible in his position to drink downwater. He remained stoic about his thirst. The body can bear what the mind will, he liked to say. His singular fixation on the mission, the larger mission that he alone could fulfill, dulled his senses to pain. He could not know it but at that exact moment on the opposite side of the world his plans were going horribly awry.


On Lane Navachi, in the restricted hamlet of Harmour, the local gendarmerie had been called to the scene of a quadruple homicide. No one could recall more than a single murder ever happening in Harmour. The identity of the victims meant that the investigation would be handled by Interior. But before their agents arrived it was the duty of the sergeant to secure the scene. Upon entering the den he had uttered a single word. “Grisly.” His mind immediately began reconstructing the sequence of events. Arvin Morven, a research scientist with Demographics, had been shot point blank in the face. The killer quickly turned the gun on the wife and shot her in the chest. The minders, who must have been in another room, were cut down with two quick shots as they entered the den. The bodies of the Morvens were then laid on a sofa and lounge chair with their arms folded in an “x” across their bosoms resting on a copy of the Oopsah. The minders were left on the floor where they fell. On the wall above the sofa the killer had written three words in blood.

“You promised me.”

It was not the sergeant’s duty to investigate, but under the guise of securing the premises he explored the house with plastic bags tied around his boots. In the bathroom he could see that the killer had washed off the blood. On the floor there was even a bloody footprint. The sergeant had a sick feeling about the print. This was going to be explosive. The Morvens were Inta, not Hutmen, but they were collaborators under the protection of the Institute. They had been active in the prior regime and perhaps a victim had taken it upon himself to exact vengeance. But the sergeant had already concluded this was not the case. These murders were an inside affair. When Interior arrived the sergeant was directed to stand in the yard outside the security zone. He could see on their faces the same suspicions. They would now have to be careful who they reported to.

A commotion and shouting came from the house. The sergeant instinctively started across the line but caught himself and stepped back. Several agents emerged from the house escorting a girl in pajamas draped in a throw rug, her hair disheveled and a look of utter terror on her face. The sergeant recognized her as the Morvens’ younger daughter, a twelve-year-old friend of his own daughter. They had found her hiding in a closet. The discovery seemed to energize the agents in their combing of the house, but eventually the activity level calmed down as they concluded no further persons were present. The sergeant knew this left one family member unaccounted for. The Morvens’ older daughter, Ivy, was missing.


When the trawler reached the outer buoys, it was met by a perimeter boat carrying a team of agents from Interior. They were there ostensibly to debrief the crew on the results of the operation. Zranga had known from the Oopsah that the cable on Spool No. 84 would fail, causing the massive door to lurch sideways and land out of place. Indeed it would fail on orders of the Great Man himself, who did not want safety mechanisms for the Project, fearing they could be used in the event of his ouster. He wanted the ability to hold the planet hostage and the fewer ways to prevent its destruction the better. But for all his power the Great Man was not prepared to reveal his intentions to the Council; so he used his security cell within Interior to carry out the sabotage. Zranga accompanied the mission precisely to thwart this plan. As the object was being lowered he had descended through the hatch into the housing, climbing head first like an insect on a series of ladders, and ordered that Spool No. 84 be moved to the excess rack where it was never used. The cables did not fail and the door landed fully operational as far as the sensors could tell.

The agents at the outer buoys knew nothing of this intrigue. They were not there to learn about the mission. They had come for clean-up. One by one they lowered themselves into the hatch at the bottom of the trawler and through the accordion chute into the housing. They selected eight men, all supervisors and engineers, for debriefing on the surface. Back on the trawler they ordered the majority of the surface crew down into the housing where they would be debriefed by a separate team. On their final sweep of the boat they found the navigation officer in the lavatory. He claimed not to have heard the call and adopted an air of self-importance, moving toward his station in the wheelhouse. An agent took him by the elbow and told him he was needed below for debriefing. The officer had heard of missions where no one returned alive. He was dimly aware of the ruthlessness of the Party and had come to suspect he was on such a mission.

“Friend,” he said to the agent. “I was ordered on first briefing to keep my station.”

“You have new orders,” the agent responded.

The agent escorted him to the bilge of the trawler where the hatch was located. Several agents were standing around the opening. The officer became increasingly nervous.

“Friend, I was instructed not to enter the housing. I have no training for this environment.”

“No training is required to debrief. You will emerge soon enough.”

The officer knew now this was a liquidation.

“I have an assignment to attend immediately upon return. I have served the Party loyally.”

“You needn’t fuss. We will have you up in minutes.”

“I implore you. I do not like enclosed spaces. I am an officer. My station is here on the surface.”

Zranga crawled down the ladder head first into the bilge and stepped onto the ceiling. In the small space his head was closer to the floor than the heads of men standing upright.

Two agents grabbed the man by each arm and began forcing him toward the hatch.

“Sir, are you defying orders?” an agent barked.

The officer twisted his body forcefully and cast the agents aside. He pushed toward Zranga and fell to the ground.

“Stand up,” Zranga said. The agents backed off and the officer stood erect.

“Friend, I ask only that I be permitted to return to my station. I am needed in Skava. I am already assigned to navigation duty on the Skirma.”

“Yes you may return to your station,” Zranga began, punctuating his comment with a moment of silence. “After debriefing,” he finished.

The officer’s face flushed red.

“Friend!” He was hysterical now. “I have three children. They are eight, six, and two. I have never refused an assignment. I am a member of the Party. I implore you!”

He again stepped toward Zranga believing that a physical gesture of supplication would help his case.

An agent blocked the way and the officer stopped.

Zranga looked at the officer then looked at an agent standing at arms by the ladder.

“Fix this problem.”

In less than a second the agent leveled his gun and shot the officer in the stomach. A look of illness and shock came over the man’s face. For all his fear he had not imagined he could actually be murdered. He bent forward in agony prepared to collapse, but an agent lifted his boot to the officer’s shoulder and shoved him backwards into the hatch. An enormous racket followed as the officer fell through the chute and into the housing. Voices could be heard shouting upwards from below.

“Oh the little people,” muttered Zranga. “It is for them that we struggle so.”

Someone could be heard climbing the ladder from the housing toward the chute. The agents grabbed the enormous lid of the hatch and stood it upright on its hinge. With a small push it fell forward into place with a reverberating clang. The housing had been constructed with an upmetal alloy to achieve near buoyancy. Ballast tanks made up for the difference and to sink the housing the tanks had to be blown. The controls were in the bilge and as an agent pulled the final lever the trawler was suddenly jolted downward by the weight of the housing. The agents realized that the force might jam the locking mechanism. If the trawler could not disengage it would sink along with the housing. They each grabbed an arm of the lock, which was located on the short cylinder below the hatch, and pushed full force. Zranga saw the precariousness of the situation but could do nothing from his perch on the ceiling. The agents’ uncoordinated efforts were not working. Zranga began calling out rhythmically to push and in a final heave the mechanism gave way. The trawler bounced upward as the housing began its slow descent to the bottom of the Sea, the grunts inside now trapped in a tomb. If the housing sank fast enough it would implode under the pressure of the ocean while the men still had air, causing instantaneous death. Otherwise they would drown from the water rushing through the open hatch. Zranga did not care what happened.

When he returned to Dark Harbor he received a cable from Skava informing him of the Morvens’ murder. An investigative summary was attached which included the words written on the wall by the killer, who had escaped to Arland. Zranga stood blankly for a moment before dropping the cable into a shredder. He had made a terrible miscalculation.

Celeste was going to die, and he would have to summon her again.

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