The quiet awoke Rene. It wasn’t true quiet, there was still the gentle clicks and hums of a thousand background systems running at idle but the omnipresent roar of the storm was gone. A day and a half had passed since their eventful landing and in all that time the roar of the storm had pressed against them so omnipresently as to become the norm. Now that it was gone Rene could feel its lack. Solae shifted under the covers, perhaps subconsciously noticing the lack of howling wind also. They had dispensed with setting watches, with only two of them it wasn’t very practical, a lone watchman was as good as no watchmen if the enemy were able to pick you off before you could raise the alarm and besides anything that could move through the storm would certainly be picked up by the Bonaventure’s sensors before it was picked up by the eyes and ears of two humans. Instead they had spent the time in pleasant domesticity, preparing meals, working on parts of the ship and talking of things that didn’t have to do with the rebellion or their immediate plans. They seemed to have arrived at an unspoken truce that no one would bring up the next stage until the storm had passed. Which, apparently, it had.
Solae sat up beside him blinking sleepily. Even with mused hair and peering owlishly into the darkness, she was heart stoppingly beautiful. Rene reached out a hand and lay it comfortingly against her cheek, feeling her vibrant warmth against his skin. Part of him wanted to stay here, just curl up and go back to sleep and forget everything that waited beyond the starships steel hull. It almost felt like he was tearing himself free of a tether to force his mouth to move.
“I’ll take a look outside,” he said, more regret slipping into his words than he had anticipated. Before he could talk himself out of it he stepped out of bed and pulled on his boots. He dressed in the simple clothes he had gotten from Min Ho, judging his uniform to be too dangerous. They had no specific wet weather gear, the Bonaventure clearly didn’t expect to do much of this kind of thing, so he pulled on one of the canvas ponchos tha the engineer had used as a shield when welding. It was heavy and stained with grease, but probably as water resistant a garment as they had aboard. Thus attired the collected one of the carbines from the tool storage bin he was using as an arms locker. It was a simple electrochemical model taken from the slavers, far simpler than his own weapons but, like a uniform, an Imperial side arm was likely to garner to much attention. Turning he found Solae standing in the hatch way pulling on her own clothing. She arched an eyebrow at his expression.
“Everything you said about keeping watch applies double to scouting around,” she said with a hint of tart in her voice.
“What if you are hurt and cant make it back?” Although the tone softened a little it clearly wasn’t a discussion. Rene could hardly blame her after days cooped up on the ship. Lifting his right palm in the courtly gesture of mock surrender he fished the pistol she had used back at Amber Horizon from the battered tool box, checked the load and safety, and passed it to her but first. It was clear that she didn’t like guns, but he didn’t want to scout even a deserted island without her having at least something. It was probably more of a security blanket for him than anything else.
“As my lady wishes,” he said with a grin. Besides he prefered to be in her company even if that entailed a little risk.
As the ramp descended into the still glowing water the sound of the wind rushed in. In his mind Rene had expected the storm to be completely passed, but he hadn’t accounted for the bulk of the Bonaventure’s hull, it was no longer howling but the wind still blew strong as the tail end of the storm dragged at the air. Moisture still misted in the air, although Rene couldn’t have said for sure whether it was true precipitation or just moisture picked up by the wind here in the Caldrea.
“Let’s move carefully,” he called over the wind, “We don’t know what's under the water!” Without waiting he sloshed into the thigh deep pool and began wading towards where some ancient fluke of geology had tumbled down some of the cinder cone, creating a breach in the caldera. Instinctively he raised the carbine above his head, keeping the weapon as dry as he could, despite the fact it was certainly sealed against moisture. The footing was treacherous, the caldrea must once have been a small forest of the coral like trees, but a combination of the storm and the ships back blast had flattened them. The thigh thick trunks covered the bottom of the pool and they had to move carefully to keep their footing. Despite the improvised garments they were both soaked and sparkling with phosphorescent motes by the time they reached the crumbled section.
The oceans of Panopontus were a peculiar shade of green, there was a grayish cast to the wavelets as they climbed up and out of the caldera. The island sloped gently away from the gutted hill of the ancient volcano. Small ferns whipped and waved in the wind, it seemed to Rene a miracle that the hurricane hadn’t stripped the small plants completely. Evidently the little plants were tougher than they appeared. There was a sand beach a hundred meters down the slope, jagged pieces of multicolored coral covered most of the beach doubtlessly torn up by the storm and the surging tides the winds drove against the beach. Eddies and sucking vortices in the gray green waters marked reefs or shoals hidden beneath the ocean. Rene was just about to comment on this when a small creature burst from the undergrowth swinging a stick at his head. It was so sudden and unexpected that he only barely managed to get his carbine between his skull and the blow. The shock of contact jarred his hand but he held onto the weapon, with instinct that would have made his close combat instructors proud he shoved of and drew the carbine back to deliver a crushing stroke to the things skull.
“No!” Solae shouted and the creature fell back, dropping its stick in terror. Rene checked his stroke. Stars above it was a child.