Bubble Hill: Chapter Sixteen Of “The Crystal Ship”

Bubble Hill. Not an actual place. Just a reference to that point in an evacuation where you’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. The phrase came about when I was still a child. I don’t know how. I don’t know who. I just know it was in use by the time I was born. And I remember hearing it just before the bombardment of our town.

The actual phrase is we’re stuck on Bubble Hill. The meaning was clear. We were caught in the middle with nowhere to go. But we are not on Bubble Hill. We were when we stopped on the other side of the river.

Now, though, we are in friendly territory. I hope. It was the last time I was here. And I had a hand in making it so.

But if Vicksburg falls, Oklahoma will be in danger of falling as well. We can’t have that. I can’t allow it. The Vampires must be stopped. Somewhere.

But right now, we are safe. Only undead on this side of the river are ghouls and zombies. And maybe a stray vampire or two. But no overlords. No armies. No bleeders.

But we can’t get lax. If we let our guard down, we could be making a fatal mistake. remain on guard, and we will survive. I look up in time to see a group approaching.

I look over at Sara. “Head’s up.”

She sees them too. “Girls, on your guard.”

Then, I recognize the insignia. The Brotherhood! I smile. “At ease, girls. They’re friendly. We have come across the legendary Brotherhood.”

Their commander smiles at me. “Long time no see, Sister Cris. I see you have been leading humans to safety again. Could you use some help?”

I offer him my hand. “Yes. We would gladly send these souls with you to safety. Whether the girls go s=is completely up to them.”

He looks at them as he shakes my hand. “I would suggest that they go and join the Sisterhood. But you are right. That is all up to them.”

I look at him. “Is Silas still with you?”

He is surprised. “Silas the scribe? Of course. But why?”

I smile. “I have some good news and need him to take the message and encode it. It needs to go to the Underground. And to Grady. And Doravenour. It is about The Crystal Ship.

His features relax. “Ah yes. All was taken care of, I presume?”

I nod. “Yes. And passage has been opened up for refugees across the river.”

He smiles. “Ah, good. No more risking our hides going through war torn Vicksburg with them.”

I look away. “Yes. This damned war is getting too costly.”

He nods. “Affirmative.”

***

I spend a couple of hours recounting the full details of the events aboard The Crystal Ship. How the girls helped me destroy the menace. How we found what was left of the missing refugees and saved those we could. How we caused the whole Harvester fleet to explode by forcing the com officer to give the self-destruct command. And how we barely had time to escape with the remaining live refugees from onboard the vessel before the whole thing went up in a ball of flames. Then sank into the murky waters of the river.

Silas writes every word. as he does so, The commander looks at me. “You have been busy. I am impressed. Training your own little army of hunters. taking out the Harvester fleet. Saving refugees from certain death. All in a day’s work.” He smiles. Grady was right in saving your life. Your loss would have robbed us of the greatest asset we have. We are in your debt.”

I smile. And put my head down. I don’t do anything for the glory. Or the honor. I do it because it is the right thing to do.

I return to the group. Sara looks at me. “What now, Cris?”

I look at her. “The refugees will be put into the capable hands of the Brotherhood. I would suggest that you go too. Only so that you can join the Sisterhood. They need women like you. Trained. Ready to fight. Ready to hunt.”

Sara shakes her head. “We want to remain with you. Learn more from you. At least for a little while.”

I acquiesce. “Alright. But only until I make the journey to their convent. No longer. They can teach you more than I can. But I will teach you what I know. The histories. The truth. What my real mission is.”

She is still insistent. “But if we go and join them, we may never see you again.”

I smile sadly. “Trust me. At the end, when the armies gather, we will see each other again. We will once again stand side-by-side as comrades in arms. And do battle against the hordes of Fallen that we must defeat. You can count on that. And we will remember each other. Still. I will teach you everything I know. At least until I go to their convent.”

She looks down. “Alright. Until then. But when is that?”

I look at her. “We must stall the Vampire armies. Keep them from crossing the river. We cannot allow them to take over Underground territory.”

She looks back up. “That means we must cross the river.”

I look over at her. “Yes. And we must lead more refugees to safety.”

She grows silent for a couple seconds. “I can’t think of anyone I would rather dance at the gates of hell with than you, Cris.” A smile plays across her face. “Let’s do this.”

“Girls!” I call them together. Waving them into my presence. “We head back across the river to find and guide more refugees. In the process, we are going to spread fear among the invading vampire armies. If you wish, you can go with the Brotherhood. They will take you to the Sisterhood. Those who are with me, step forward.”

All eleven step forward. I smile and shake my head. “Then get ready to go through hell. Because here we go.” I turn and lead them back toward the river. I only hope they all make through this next trip alive.

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