Black. The absence of light. The absorption of it. And it's where she's stuck.
Her breath is amplified. Deafening. Despite her best efforts to remain quiet and, by proxy, perfectly still. She's being too loud. She knows it can hear her.
She also knows it can see her.
She's breathing too loud.
Too loud. Much too loud. She can't hear it approaching, but she knows it's coming.
Were there any light, she'd have seen the tendrils, wafting in the still air amid dust particles that found their place places based on density, like oil and water. Air settled only by her unwillingness to move. Were there any light, she'd have seen that the tendrils created no wind, offered no disturbance.
Were there any light, she'd have not felt the vertigo. Not been confused as to whether or not she was underwater, in spite of her deafening respiration.
But there is no light. She sees nothing. Feels nothing.
Until it rips her apart.
Oil and water. And blood.
Spyglass' eyes open. She wasn't sleeping, but the effect still disorients. "Damn." It's all she can mutter.
"They got another one." Spyglass curls up, propping herself with her elbows behind her back. She winces for a moment as a lock of her hair gets caught under arm. There's a futile hopping gesture - hard to do when one is still essentially lying down - and a flinch of the neck. It's unnecessary - and, indeed, unnoticed - but she's hit by a twinge of embarrassment, thinking her clumsiness makes her appear unattractive.
"That's not good." Compass doesn't notice her stuck hair as he busily types notes into his archaic laptop computer. Not that he would've cared; he probably would've enjoyed the sight of her pert breasts jiggling atop her nubile form. As it is, he's caught up in data entry of a most unusual kind on a computer he berates under his breath. Still, he's not one to pass up an opportunity to ogle Spyglass.
Fortunately, for the both of them, there are more important matters at hand.
"Which one?" Compass asks.
"Da Silva, I think," Spyglass replies, kicking her legs to the side of the leather couch and sitting up properly. She blows some loose hair away from her eyes - probably from the same lock she caught herself on - and rubs her eyes. She's barely 25, but worry lines are starting to draw her in her 30s. "It was definitely a woman."
"Which one?" Compass is not repeating the earlier question. It's apparent to the third person in the room, James Lüpertz, that these two have done this many times already. It is not a good revelation. Even more so since he doesn't even know what's going on.
Spyglass scrunches her brow and looks to the ceiling. She pauses on the faux-Gothic chandelier - replete with ceiling fan attachment - and wonders for a moment if anything as romantic as the Phantom of the Opera could ever be real. The blades batter the air and Spyglass shivers at the reluctant memory of... whatever it was.
"Which one, Sarah?" He is repeating, this time.
She shrugs, blindly noting his use of her real name. She'd return the favor, but rumor has it Compass had his name legally changed to Compass upon his assignment. "I don't know. I've never felt that one before."
Compass frowns and taps more keys in rapid succession. Between Spyglass' admission and the outdated CPU in the laptop, Compass' frustration boils over. "Well, that's fucking wonderful."
"What does that mean?" James isn't supposed to say anything - he's merely there as an observer - but he can't help it. Confusion is rapidly disappearing into layers of more confusion.
Spyglass lies back down on the couch. Compass keeps typing. James look to one, then the other, then back to the first. It is Compass who finally answers. "It means shit's still coming through."
"How? The tunnel in Poland was closed."
"Fuck if I know, dude." Compass speaks as if a teenager, though he's well into his 30s. His lengthening hair effectively disguises nearly two decades of military service, and people often take him less seriously than they should. Then again, Compass wouldn't have it any other way. "Maybe there's another tunnel? Hello?"
James turns to look behind him - a reflex - but no one is there. It takes him a moment to realize that Compass' greeting was American sarcasm. Why can't the bastards ever give straight answers?
"Am I next?" Spyglass lazily asks, about ready to fall asleep. Reception is exhausting.
Compass shrugs. She pouts and almost begs for reassurance, but he beats her to it. "I doubt it. You're pretty low on the totem pole."
That's not very reassuring, she thinks, as she lets herself slide into a dreamworld... her own, this time.
Marianne Dequenne stares in awe of the two men seated in front of her. Well, one of them, anyway. The elder one. Nearly 80 years old, he is a man who has - quite literally - seen everything. Everything the stars have seen.
The stars looking at Earth, anyway.
He is Sextant. A position he's held for 67 years, longer than any previous Sextant by more than two decades. He came into the title by pure accident, the wrong place at the right time, and has held it professionally ever since. Even though his first few years with the responsibility were disastrous - the Earth was almost destroyed twice - the woman who was Clock guided him well. As did her successor, a would-be Ethiopian princess once known as Derartu Kebede.
The other man in front of Dequenne is the new Clock. He's only been Clock for two years, which is why Marianne isn't in awe of him. As of yet, he's accomplished little of note.
Publicly, that is.
She's no idea that it is this new Clock who has granted Marianne Dequenne and James Lüpertz direct access to the Navigators.
It is a gesture unprecedented in the history of their order. Previously, when the existence of their order was discovered - or strongly suspected - "accidents" were arranged. An unfortunate side effect necessitated by the enemy they face.
But there would be no accident, not this time. The reasons for their disclosure are few, but important. Marianne has no idea what any of them are.
Or how close she and James were to being erased from existence. Fortunately, for her and for James, Clock identified something useful in the two of them.
And, besides... existence is still young.
*Continued in Uncharted, Part II
The Complete Uncharted: Map One