The Sea is Deep

(an explanation)

It was less than an hour later when the moonrise bells began to peal, and a hush fell over the entire Vault.  All of the younglings paused in their work to listen, to feel, as the gigantic Night Hounds passed out of their Kennel and into the world above.  With them went their piloting crews, made up of the brave men and women who could claim the title of Harrier.  It was a far more dangerous calling than those who ran with the Day Hounds, those who hunted secure in the knowledge that the sun weakened their enemies, and drove them into hiding.  The Day Hounds had long hours of seeking without finding: the Night Hounds did near-constant battle from moonrise to moonset.

"Someday," Miguel whispered.

"Someday nothing, if you don't focus on the task at hand," Lydia hissed, scrubbing hard enough to remove every potential trace of Spores from the metal beneath her brush.  Miguel scowled and returned to his own scrubbing.

"What's gotten into your craw today?" he asked.  Lydia was always serious about their tasks, but rarely so cranky about it.

"Oh, so just because I take this seriously, I've got something in my craw?" she snapped.  Miguel swallowed the sharp retort that sprang to his lips.  A Harrier couldn't afford to lose their temper, so he couldn't, either.  They finished their work in frosty silence, then broke to return to their separate homes for dinner.

As he was climbing into bed later that night, Miguel caught the tremor of a Night Hound's return.  It moved slowly through its descent, and he knew it must have sustained heavy damage to be returning so early.  He heard his father- crippled long ago and now restricted to working within the Vault- gather up his tools and murmur an affectionate parting to his mother.  He and the other mechanics will put it right, Miguel thought, and snuggled deep beneath the covers.  Next to him, his little brother Jeshua whimpered and rolled over in his sleep, so Miguel reached out to lay a comforting hand on him.  The younger boy's breathing quickly evened back out, then deepened, and soon he was dreaming peacefully once more. Miguel, however, lay awake and staring at the dim lights in the common room, mind churning through the events of the evening.  What was going on with Lydia?  He'd try asking again tomorrow, while they were out gathering.  Maybe she'd feel better in the sunlight.

Just then his mother came to stand in the doorway.  "Good night, Miguel," she whispered in a voice that indicated his eyes had better not be open much longer.  She moved away and turned the house lights off, but did not come to join them in the bed.  Miguel hadn't really expected her to: she often stayed up to wait for her husband on those nights he was called to tend a Hound.

Miguel's eyes soon adjusted to the new dark, allowing him to just make out his mother's dim silhouette as she nursed the baby in her rocking chair.  The gentle creak of the chair kept time to her soft lullaby, one she had sung to Jeshua, and to Miguel before him.  The words spoke of a time long lost, of a great body of water known as the sea, and how a new world lay across the other side.  Miguel felt his eyes grow heavy in spite of himself, soothed by the familiar tones.

Tomorrow, he thought sleepily.  Tomorrow I'll find out...

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