The ninja watch through long-range optics when Leo and Aria go out for breakfast. They listen in via laser shotgun microphones as the pair discuss whether to tell Rossum. They hear the name “Ji-a Lee”. They report back to their superiors.
Off-the-shelf civilian drones, an uncommon but not implausible sight in Halcyon City, watch Leo as he texts Trace. Telescopes train on him as he climbs onto a beat-up old motorcycle and powers his way across the city. They lose him in the Cardy Viaduct, but other assets are on the way to continue the pursuit.
Leo isn’t sure why Trace sent him such obscure directions. But he’s parked the bike and has made his way into the subway system as ordered.
Trace is there, hanging out at the 29th and Hama station’s turnstile.
“Heard you got attacked by ninja.”
Leo raises an eyebrow. “Heard that, did ya?”
Trace shrugs. “Me an’ Nautilus are talking more now, I guess. Because of this whole thing. So I hear stuff.”
Leo gives his lacrosse captain a wary eyeing. “I guess that’s why you had me come all the way down here to meet you. Because I went public, they can find me, and you’re concerned about them finding you.”
Trace thumbs up. “That’s your new life now, by the way.”
Leo frowns. “That’s not gonna work, man. I got shit to do.”
“I figured you’d feel like that. So that’s why I got a pitch for you.”
Leo laughs at that. “What?”
Trace is smiling, but Leo can tell he’s serious. “I mean it. Move out of that place you got from Quill. Get mobile. Disconnect. Not like you’re gonna ever be a company man, working 9 to 5. Why settle down when you’re not the type?”
Leo hears the earnestness. He sighs, and holds up his hands. “I see where you’re going. But lemme tell you something. I’ve been mobile all my god damn life. And it sucked. Don’t I have the right to try and put down some roots somewhere?”
“Right’s got nothing to do with it. Day you took off that helmet on TV, you invited this shit into your life.” Trace is irritated, and Leo can hear it in his voice. “You thought you had the privilege of being open about who you were. But everyone who tries to do the right thing gets a target painted on them by someone. You ain’t any different, Snow.”
Leo doesn’t want to argue this, partly because he knows he can’t. This doesn’t make him any happier about it. “Sorry, I can’t live in a cramped submarine like you guys do, apparently.”
Trace shrugs. “Build a bigger submarine. Or boat. Or ship. Or whatever. You did that bird thing, yeah?”
Leo stops to think about this. Could it be done? Well of course it could. But… should it?
“I gotta talk to Aria.”
Trace laughs. “Sure, bro, talk to your girlfriend.”
Leo points an aggressive finger in the other boy’s face. “But after that, we are gonna have a conversation. If you’re going to be telling me where and how to live, you need to be sharing some of that fucking deep-sea tech.”
“Sure sure. Just as long as it’s a two-way trade.”
Mindful of Trace’s warning, Leo doesn’t talk shop until he’s back at the extension and the door is closed.
He explains the conversation, and Aria listens. And he’s surprised by her first reaction. “I think I’d look good in one of those pirate hats. And I’d be fine with a cutlass.”
Leo frowns. “You don’t feel bad about being told to just… keep on the run for the rest of your life?”
Aria holds her hands out in a weak half-shrug. “We’re used to that, thanks to Rossum. This wasn’t how things were going to be forever. We just got a little break, is all.”
“I guess. I just don’t like it.”
Leo is still going to grouse about this, and Aria lets him. “I know you don’t like it. So how about we have some fun, and figure out what being pirates looks like?”
“Yeah. So, I was thinking…”
It takes three days. The resulting design is a combination of Leo’s generation eight robotics work, plus Otto’s carbon fossilization research, and the underwater tech of Nautilus and Stingray. Leo calls it “Leviathan”.
The Newmen and the Nautiloids review the design over a video call, searching for problems or gaps in the design.
“You’re gonna build a robot squid?” Nautilus asks dubiously.
“I’m building a self-replicating housing unit,” Leo explains. “It’s like… an underwater houseboat or yacht, big enough for several families. Self-sustaining life support. Holographic emitters for comfort and recreation. Molecular lathes and robofacs to build and repair whatever you need. Plus, the whole unit can replicate itself by planting a seed anywhere there’s enough raw materials to work from.”
“And the tentacles? Those don’t look very effective as weapons.”
“They’re not intended to be weapons. They’re big enough to move people and cargo in and out of the habitat area. When the thing is moving, they’re open to the water, and work as part of the MHD propulsion system. Magnetohydrodynamics has previously been limited by the density of electricity in the medium, but we’ve solved that with graphene hyperconductors.”
Stingray jumps in. “Tell 'em about the kidnapping.”
Leo scowls. “It’s not kidnapping, it’s rescue. The idea is, if Leviathan here drills through the seabed to an Atlantean attic with a tentacle, the air-breathing humans can climb through that tube right into the habitat area, then we close the hole behind us and launch. It’s a way of getting people out of there as quickly and safely as possible.”
Nautilus rubs his beard. “Interesting.”
“Multiple Leviathan units can dock, by contracting their tentacles and hooking them together as passageways. You can build a whole underwater town with enough of them.”
Nautilus hmms. “What did we get outta this exchange, boy?”
“Improvements to the molecular lathes aboard our subs. The graphene power system, which will get rid of the big heavy battery blocks we’re using now. Carbon armor - slightly weaker than the high-pressure Carapace stuff, but cheaper to replace.”
“Good, good. The batteries are the worst.” Nautilus turns his attention back to Leo. “Welcome to the life of a man of the sea, m’boy. It’s not easy or forgiving, but it’ll make a real man out of ya.” He seems to acknowledge Aria on the call for the first time, and nods in her direction. “Or woman, as the case may be.”
Aria smiles politely.
Leo rubs his hands together. “Alright. Production starts now. The Phoenix took us four days, I figure this will be the same. And after that, we see what we can do about Atlantis.”