Monday, December 26, 2016

Lonely Space - Chapter Nine

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine
Encounter with a Titan

As they climbed down an access ladder, because there were no lifts in evidence, it occurred to Tamita that the darkened corridor also had a higher ceiling than the rest of the ship she had seen. It was like they had simply welded another ship to the front of the Salutem Novis. She meant to bring this up to Jay Johnson but they were both climbing silently.

Finally they reached the next lower deck. Here she was certain the ceiling was higher. Much higher.

“Jay, the ceiling.” she said. He looked up and nodded “Yeah, I noticed that too.”

The main computer spoke to them “I had registered larger spaces through a radar scan but it was not nearly detailed enough to see how large it was exactly.”

They began walking but stopped. There was no corridor here. Instead there was a huge door hatch, and Jay did not see any device that would open it. “I don't know what is going on here, but something is definitely going on.”

Tamita nodded. “I'm not sure I really want to meet what uses this door.”

“Good point.” Jay agreed. “Computer, maybe it would safer to get back to where we belong.”

The main computer answered “I leave this up to you, as the human crew. If you feel it is too dangerous to continue, then by all means return. A hatch that measures 3 meters wide and 8 meters tall is quite a mystery.”

“Everything here looks like part of a different ship.” Jay said “This hatch looks like it might not even be a human one.”

“It's cold here too.” Tamita said “Quite a bit colder, actually.”

Jay nodded, it hadn't registered yet with him but she was right. “What could be the purpose of all this? You don't think it's some kind of protective buffer?”

The main computer “Negative. That possibility is quite remote.”

Tamita was shivering and tapping a foot “I don't want to stay here any more. Can we just leave?”

Jay put an arm around her and started back toward the access ladder. “After we reprogram the Rovers I could come back with a few of them and I can be armed. Then maybe we could find a way to see what is on the other side of that.”

Jay Johnson took off the wrist device and laid it on the floor, facing the hatch. Then he and Tamita climbed back up the ladder past where the ceiling was.

“Why did you do that?” she asked him looking down at him, noticing that he stopped climbing.

“Just a hunch.” he answered “Okay, lets go.”

So they climbed back the way they came and walked back to where they had left Gopher.

“If we go down a couple of decks we should be where that chamber is but on the other side.” he told her as they moved “I have a feeling there is a wall and not a hatch. There are probably not many routes into the dark part of the ship.”

“Okay, so why would they attach another vessel to the front of this one?” Tamita stopped and asked “That doesn't make any sense”.

Jay walked back to her and put an arm around her shoulder, again and walked again. Keep moving, he was trying to say without words. “Maybe the project chiefs didn't know about it. The world was falling into chaos, after all, maybe someone chose that time to make a secret addition.”

“You think there are stowaways?” she asked stopping again.

“Could be!” he said “Just keep walking.”

She looked back into the darker corridor. “There may be other people on this ship with us?”

“Come on” Jay said, this time holding her hand “Gopher is waiting for us.”

The little robot was watching them as they approached. “Gopher, I'm not going down there again without a plasma laser rifle and an army of droids.”

“Droids? Isn't that a fictional designation for robots?” Gopher asked

Tamita said “Don't listen to him. He missed you.”

Gopher moved in front of them and faced him as he walked. “You have formed an emotional attachment to Gopher, shall we hug?” It asked holding its arms wide and stopping. Jay walked right into it “Stop it, this isn't funny.” he said pushing Gophers closing arms away.

Tamita was laughing though.

“Listen, this is serious. I want to find out what is on this ship with us.” he told them “Then I want to know what we can do about it.”

With incomplete information there was no answer to these questions, the computer knew. If indeed there was a presence of other persons or things aboard, then it needed to be assessed whether they might be hostile or non-violent. They seemed to be hiding, this would suggest they did not want to be found and possibly not be offensively hostile. The best course of action in that instance would be to leave them alone.

Something had reprogrammed the rovers and the service modules though and left no real sign of how or why they had done it. That, the computer thought, had been a very hostile act.

“Options, computer, let's hear them.” Jay Johnson said as they entered the room that had become their main room. The two humans sat at the small round table and Gopher hovered nearby.

“If there are indeed others aboard they might possibly be non-violent, preferring to stay hidden. If these persons were responsible for the programming faults of the rovers and service modules, then I would have to classify them as malevolent.” the computer said “The options are, assuming again that they exist and that they are hostile, to completely blockade the few access corridors available. Or, your suggestion, send you in with arms and rovers programmed to defend you. Or I could place you both back into cryogenic suspension to protect you from harm.”

The humans looked a bit stunned by the last suggestion.

“If those things are hostile and responsible for damaging the ship, you can't afford not to have humans around.” Jay Johnson said.


“It would feel kind of strange to wall the area off without knowing for sure what is there.” Tamita said looking at the table top. “Not that I would mind feeling weird.”

Jay nodded “Have you manufactured the new rover computer cores?”

The main computer answered “Yes, Jay. They are available whenever you are prepared to install them.”

“If something in that part of the ship tampered with them before, they could do it again.” Tamita said “Going down there with an army of rovers that might turn against you seems really stupid.”

After some silence, during which the computer noted that Tamita took Jay Johnson's hands into her own as they stared into each others eyes. “I can design and produce what is called an interrupt function, or as you might say, a dead-mans' switch. One that would allow you to shut down the rovers with the touch of a button.”

“I guess I have to do it.” Jay said quietly to Tamita before adding loudly and looking at the terminal on the wall “But I'm going to be armed, okay?”

The switch would be on his belt. He would wear a multi-functional wristband this time as well as carry a plasma pulse laser rifle slung over his shoulder. Before this, though, he would make a space walk outside of the bridge dome and put new cores into 6 of the tiger-like rovers. While there were more rovers locked into a storage shelter, it was decided that these rovers would be the ones to use.

Jay Johnson wasn't exactly sure how they were picked but it happened. Each of them, after being reprogrammed, would have certain attachments to make them into his army. One of them would carry a scanner and jamming system, while another would carry a grenade launcher. Just as a for instance.

“Okay, recruits, fall into line.” he ordered them and they complied. They followed him into the airlock and then out into the corridor. Tamita backed up, she was still afraid of them. Jay smiled and took off his helmet. “I'll get the suit off and then I'll be right back.”

Soon enough they were back into their main room. The computer had something to report to them using the holographic monitor there. The six rovers were waiting patiently outside in the corridor.

“Using the scanning device that Jay Johnson left outside of the hatch in the dark area of the ship I was able to determine that something was moving inside.” the computer said “It is very sketchy but there is most certainly movement.”

An ink blot would have more detail than the images they were being shown.

“I see you do not understand. Let me superimpose the hatch.”

Then the same static-type movement was shown overlaying an image of the enormous hatch, whatever was moving in there was very large.

“That is not a human.” Tamita said “That thing must be at least eighteen feet tall.”

Jay Johnson suddenly felt like his gun was not big enough. “Computer do you have emergency hatch doors if this thing suddenly pulled free from the rest of the ship?”

After a second it answered “Assuming it did so without causing structural damage, yes. I do not understand how the question is germane. Do you have reason to believe that this entity has the ability to separate from the rest of the ship?”

“No.” he admitted “It's just a feeling.”

Then after another moment he asked. “Do you have a way to check how that section is actually physically connected? If you do, check to see if it was added with explosive bolts. If not, I would feel better about all this.”

The computer answered “Yes. I can send nanites into the ship to find out the answer to this query.”

“Nanites?” Tamita asked “You mean you have some of those microscopic robots on board?”

The computer answered “Affirmative. They are invaluable for any number of roles. They repair micro-circuitry, they clean the interior of the ship and other things.”

Jay Johnson stood up and checked the way the gun sling hung from his shoulder “All right. I guess we should get this show on the road.”

“If it gets too dangerous...” Tamita told him “Just get out of there.”

He nodded. “Hopefully it's not hostile. It might not have been it or he or whatever, that sabotage the robots before. We just do not know.”

Tamita walked up to him and kissed him “You better come back.”

“Oh, I will! I'm not that brave.” he told her “The rovers can do the real fighting.”

“Then hurry up.” she told him.

She watched him and the six rovers leave and turn down a corridor. “Okay Gopher, we have some work to do too.”

When Jay and the rovers reached the access ladder he suddenly wondered if these rovers could climb, then he remembered how agile they were. They had no problem climbing the ladder to the deck with the enormous hatch.

“Signals.” he called number six, the one with the scanner and jammer “Can you open that hatch? I mean, I order you to open the hatch.”

The robot pointed itself at the hatch and Jay could hear it send radio frequencies going from low to high and back again. Then hatch clicked.

“Attention!” he said and all the robots were suddenly prepared to do combat. The hatch had unlocked but it did not open automatically “Number One, open the hatch”. The rover put its back legs against the frame of pushed the huge hatch open several feet and then walked back to its position.

Jay Johnson expected something to burst out of the doors but it was quiet. He took a sensor ball from his pocket, another device manufactured by the ship and threw it into the opening in the hatch. He looked at a small screen on his wrist device.

It was dark inside. He saw some shadows, that looked like boxes and crates or furniture. Of course everything he saw was much larger than it should have been. Whatever that huge thing was it was hiding in the shadows. So instead of it being the one to charge Jay, he and the rovers would have to do the charging.

“Okay, go in and spread out, spotlights on.” he told the rovers and they immediately jumped to follow his commands and he followed them in, with his weapon at the ready. He climbed into the hatch and dropped to one knee once he was inside, he scanned back and forth with the gun. The spotlights of the rovers were not as bright or as effective as he had hoped.

“This place really is huge.” he said, knowing the computer had probably already started scanning and mapping it. One of the rovers made a noise and the others all turned in the same direction, so Jay followed them through the gun sight.

Suddenly something in the shadows rose up and up. It was probably even taller than they had first thought, and it was most definitely some type of robot. The lights showed its legs, its torso, some of the long arms and large claw-hands.

Finally the lights of the rovers illuminated the top. Jay fell onto his butt and began backing up toward the hatch door. Up at the place where some sort of robot head should be was the body of a man, it was connected to the huge metal frame through where its arms, legs and the top of his head should be.

Jay felt like he would throw up. His legs wouldn't work right, he was trying to stand up so he could get out of there. He was in the doorway of the hatch when he heard a cackle.

“Run, frightened mouse, run” its metallic voice said “I am the titan who shall inherit the Earth, not you puny pathetic humans!”

“Rovers, attack!” Jay yelled, but he was a bit behind the times. He hadn't seen that this titan had his own robotic army closing in on them. The rovers launched their grenades and fired their guns but the other robots also attacked. A nearby explosion threw Jay completely out of the chamber and past the open hatch.

“Don't think I'm not grateful you've let me out of my prison. I'll reward you with a quick death!” the voice reverberated. Jay told himself this guy or thing had seen way too many bad movies, but seems to have forgotten that the bad guys don't win. Usually.

Another explosion at the hatch as he was climbing the ladder got his attention. The hatch swung open from the blast and pieces of rovers littered the floor between him and the hatch. Finally two rovers backed out of the hatchway firing laser blasts into the chamber. Jay couldn't see much but he returned some fire too.

Jay began to climb frantically. Let the rovers slow them down a bit if they could.

“Computer, if there is a way to separate this part from the rest of the ship, it would be a great idea to do it now.” he said as he reached the top of the ladder and began running up the corridor as fast as he could.

“Not possible.” the computer answered.

Lonely Space - Chapter Eight

See Chapter One

Chapter Eight
A Quest

After they were back in the small mess hall they had been using for a while Jay Johnson pulled Tamita close and whispered “Even if we install new computer cores you said the bad programming might be coming from another part inside the robots”

She nodded.

“We might need to take some of them apart and inspect each piece” he concluded. The prospect of being electrocuted or torn apart by sabotaged robots was worth the extra effort to prevent. The main computer had a long-range 6,000 year plan built in to its system, while humans are worried about more immediate things, such as their own lives.

“If that is what needs to happen to end this mess, then we can do that” she answered “This ship needs those robots if it is going to have a chance to make it for 6,000 years”

Jay thought about this. Pretty much every part on every robot would be replaced several times over before this voyage is ending. He hoped replacing the cores was the end of it or barring that, finding the part that had been sabotaged from the design stage.

The main computer spoke up “I have designed a more efficient computer core for the Corridor Service Module and it is being built as we speak. Gopher should have it brought to you within a quarter of an hour.”

Jay Johnson was impressed “redesigned and built in such a short time, that is impressive'

The computer was silent but Tamita laughed “Please tell me you aren't trying to charm the computer, I don't think praise is going to compute”

As promised Gopher entered the room carrying a ceramic and metallic-looking all with grooved edged around it that were obviously meant to fit into a slot. Jay Johnson picked it up and examined it while the main computer spoke again.

“You will need to open the top access hatch on the unit, then open a secondary panel inside of that and replace the computer core. It should be fairly straight-forward, as these were made for humans to be able to repair easily” it told them

“See” Tamita said standing up from the table they were sitting at “Sounds condescending but it doesn't mean to be”

They returned to the lift and then walked back toward the bridge, all of the service module robots were still where they had been stopped previously. The one closest to where they had come from was the one Jay Johnson had named Goth. Corridor Service Module G-27.

“Looks like a silver and black refrigerator lying on its back, doesn't it?” Jay asked jokingly.

He climbed on top while she leaned over from the side. The access port was easy to open, being no real reason to make them otherwise. Jay Johnson laid on his stomach to get a close look at the inside, he could see where the secondary hatch was inside but there were things in the way. So he took the chance to hold the wires and stuff to the side with one hand and open the hatch with the other.

There was a white and silver ball, looking only a little different from the one printed up by the ships computer. He reached down and pulled, it came up out of its slot quite easily. He put it aside and Tamita handed them the replacement. He dropped it and it slide into the slot, a tap of a finger made sure it was embedded snugly.

“That was easy” he said, sitting up and closing the top hatch.

The computer spoke up through Gopher who was a few feet away “I will have this unit push the others out of the way and then fix some of the damage that was caused. If you want to be out of the way during this operation you might want to leave the area now”

Tamita and Jay Johnson walked back to the lift and he leaned close to her and whispered “Did you feel the urgency to the computer wanting to fix the damage? We're in the middle of nowhere, most systems are automated, what did the computer not tell us?”

The computer monitored the module called “Goth” by the humans as it reconnected and rewired the connections to the bridge. Some of the first connections to be reconnected were the least important, but it was progress, those needed done before the main trunk line could be fixed. There were thousands of computers on the ship but losing access to the bridge hindered some of its operations.

A lot of exterior sensors were directly wired to bridge computers, thus the computer had only partial data about what was happening outside the ship. This could leave the mission in danger, there were occasional meteors and comets even this far out into the heliopause. To the computer sensor darkness, not knowing where danger might be, was unsettling.

Tamita and Jay Johnson entered Biological Habitat 2, one of the smaller ones, so they could try to get a little privacy.

“This ship is so big that I haven't seen most of it” he told her “I have no idea where the passengers are being stored. I guess I could figure that out though, but there is so much else I haven't seen”

She nodded “What else is there?”

He took a fallen twig and found a dirt area without grass and sat next to it. He drew a rectangle “We have only been to about this much”

He filled in what he thought was right and they were surprised. Even after spending several years living and exploring Jay Johnson had been to less than ten percent of the volume of the ship. “I reckon a lot of this side of the ship is fuel that we took on from Jupiter” he filled in the back quarter of the ship. “I bet much of the center is the storage for the passengers” he filled in another quarter.

“The manufacturing and the stuff they make things out of must take up some space, but I bet there is enough air and water to take up a quarter of the ship too” Tamita added.

“That still leaves a good fifteen percent of the ship that is totally unknown to us” Jay Johnson said “I know the computer doesn't tell us everything. It took close to four years before I ever saw a corridor service module! The computer had never mentioned them to me before I ran into Goth while jogging”

“What would the computer do if we asked to see the other fifteen percent of the ship?” Tamita asked, curiously.

Jay Johnson shrugged. “That probably depends on what is there, I guess”

“So, we just go and look without asking then” She said with a grin “We're adults, we don't need to do what daddy computer says”

When they left the biological habitat they were holding hands and Tamita was leaning against Jay a little, despite not being physically handicapped. The computer noted this, it believed that the two humans were at least very good friends now. Watching them would teach it a lot about the stages of human bonding and its files on this were growing.

When Gopher approached them they let their hands fall to their sides. This was curious, was their friendship supposed to be a secret? At such as early stage in a relationship was it not secure enough to show others? There was much to learn, but 6,000 years was a long time.

“The service module is operating as expected. It is repairing the wiring and tubing to the bridge, fixing its connection to the rest of the ship!” Gopher reported to the humans “The computer has begun manufacturing enough replacement computer cores for all of the corridor service modules”

“How many of them are there?” Tamita asked

“The original plan call for there to be two hundred and forty of them, but this was an inefficient use of resources. Instead we have forty” Gopher told them.

“That is still a lot” she said looking doubtful.

Jay shook his head “If they are all as easy to replace as on Goth, then it won't take too long I guess, besides it means traveling to parts of the ship we haven't seen yet”

“Oh, right” Tamita said putting on a fake smile and laughing nervously to the little robot “Good point, humans like seeing new things”

The little robot then chirped “Okay, I'll go get the next batch of replacement computer cores right now!”

Then it was gone.

“Chippy little thing, isn't she?” Tamita asked

“She?” Jay asked, frowning “I never assigned any gender to the robot before.”

“Gopher just seems like a 'she' to me”

“I always thought Gopher was like a child” Jay asked “Or is that kind of the same thing?”

“You better start running!” she said with an evil smile. Then they laughed and ran all the way toward where the service robots were still cluttering the area near the bridge. Instead they were all lined up neatly, leaving room for the humans to maneuver their way through.

“That makes things easier, thanks Goth” Jay told the robot that totally ignored him, as it always did since they were not made to interact with humans. “I guess we'll get these first before having to travel to get the rest of them” he said.

“Let me do some of them” Tamita asked “Unless you think this is far too dangerous”

He laughed “It's like changing a light bulb, I think you can handle it, little lady”

She shook her head “You should at least attempt a John Wayne drawl when you say that”

“I'm terrible at impersonations”

They finished installing the new cores to the service modules outside of the bridge in little time and then began moving from section to section and deck to deck where Gopher told them others were located. Replacing the cores was easy, the traveling took longer and they mostly used lifts instead of walking.

Then Jay Johnson stopped, the door-frame here looked different, bigger, the frame was red too and entered a strange looking chamber. The chamber had a tall ceiling and was dominated by a silver cylinder at the center.

Tamita entered after noticing he wasn't with her and going back.

“What is this place?” Tamita asked in a quiet voice.

“I don't know” he said “Look how big those tubes to the cylinder are. It could be part of some kind of cooling system”. Tubes entered from the floor and ceiling connecting to the cylinder.

“No labels or signs at all” Tamita said walking around the vast cylinder “Not even a warning sign”

Jay Johnson was thinking hard. “I know the water and air storage sites are a thousand or more times this size. I guess it could be part of a filtration system but this is kind of weird”

Tamita shook her head “Don't you think this could be part of the cryogenic suspension system?”

Jay looked around for Gopher, it was hanging out in the corridor looking into the chamber through the open doorway. He wondered why the computer or Gopher hadn't answered any of the questions they had spoken out loud.

“Gopher what is this chamber for?” he asked walking toward the robot “What does that do?”

Gopher backed up a few feet.

“I do not know. My map of this area is incomplete” it said

Then the main computer spoke up “As you get closer to the front of the vessel there are bigger and bigger blind spots for my maps. I assume that the construction was becoming rushed because of the launch deadline”

How could they leave parts of the ship outside the control of the computer? It didn't seem to make much sense.

“Was there any last minute adjustments or additions?” Jay asked

The computer answered “There were many small last minute adjustments, mostly minor changes but there was one major addition. Part of the forward section of the vessel, which is a large blind spot”

“Me and Tamita can go and check that out” Jay Johnson told the computer. After thinking the computer was hiding something from them this was even more worrisome.

Gopher disappeared again. The computer answered “I will leave that up to you. If you do insist on exploring the unknown parts of the ship you should take certain tools with you. It will keep you in contact with me”

When Gopher returned it handed them small wristbands, then said “I also cannot access the dark parts of the ship”.

Jay looked at Tamita, he was starting to have second thoughts about this.

The main computer spoke again “Scan the dark areas of the vessel as you explore and I will be able to add it to my internal memories and the main map of the ship”

Gopher accompanied them for a while. Then the entire look of the vessel changed. The rail that Gopher hung down from did not extend any further. There was less lighting, the metal bulkheads were darker, as if the metal were not as refined as the rest of the ship.

“Everything looks different” Tamita said “I guess they really did add it at the last minute”

“This project took a long time, 'last minute' was probably a matter of months” Jay guessed looking around and moving the wristband like it was a flashlight. When they came to the first hatches Jay was almost surprised that they refused to open. He punched in the code for door access but got a red light in return.

“This is different” Jay said “I wonder how many of these will open for us?”

Not many, he decided after the next set of hatches refused to budge, So they continued to walk until they came to a T-section. “Looks like we might have reached the front of the ship” Tamita said.

The voice of the main computer came from their wrist devices, but it sounded tinny “Most likely, there is only about 4 meters between this corridor and the outside of the vessel. I believe it is made up of triple hull. There are other decks to check”

Chapter Nine

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Free at last...

 Finally free again at Amazon. I am not sure why they were repriced to 99 cents in the first place since they are free at Google and Smashwords.

8 Short Stories
10 More Stories
Dragon of Torik
Reward: Stolen Planet

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Character Intro & Setting

Stanley opened the file cabinet and thumbed through the contents to find the right spot to slide the folder into place. With it he closes his briefcase. It was this thing about his job that brought him satisfaction, putting things where they belonged.

Stanley is a short bespectacled man with thinning hair. He wears a crisp white button up shirt and a bow tie. The bow tie is not an affectation or a sign of character, it was just that a dangling tie could get caught up in a drawer or one of the machines he was in charge of when necessary. Stanley wouldn't hear of going without a tie at all, though; shudder the thought.

In fact not only is Stanley of the most white-bread, vanilla personage, he utterly lacks ambition and imagination. If he were the King of the Vikings, they'd never have invaded the English isles or discovered Nova Scotia. He is made of such stuff that abusing his power, even to retain the throne, would be unthinkable.

This made Stanley the perfect figure to keep order in the Universal Exchange that links and keeps track of pretty much everything that happens everywhere, all the time. A person with imagination or ambition would use such a position to, perish the thought, change things. Play God or at least play favorites and enrich themselves.

The filing cabinet was just one of trillions that Stanley is responsible for. Also he has been responsible for them for as long as he could remember. Not that it mattered. It could have been decades or centuries or epochs, but time didn't exist in this place as it did elsewhere.

A distant alarm sounded, sort of like the bugle of war but very far away. Stanley checks the readings on his holographic wrist computer.

“Oh wow, this is out of place!” Stanley utters to himself. Things being “out of place” is one of the worst possible things in his mind, the other was being “out of time”. Space and time are like longitude and latitude on a planet, they are like coordinates for the universe.

Quickly Stanley moves toward his waiting conveyance, which resembles a 1929 Ford Roadster convertible with the top down. “Sagittarius Majoris,” he intones to the vehicle, “2123832-1232”. This completes the coordinates and the vehicle takes off toward that sector. Although the vehicle was moving fast enough that everything else became a blur, it still took a good minute to reach the desired place and time index.

Stanley exits the vehicle and runs up the path between two tall rows of filing cabinets and assorted other things, as he turns a corner he spots the disturbance. Meanwhile the details of the incident appear within his briefcase, but Stanley paused long enough to take in the sight.

The creature was nine feet tall, humanoid, except that it's head was six heads all meeting at the center where they shared a mouth. Six noses and twelve eyes and six bushy heads of hair that sort of gave the impression of some bad artistic impression of a flower. This was a Sagitarian. A very confused and lost Sagitarian who was in a mild state of shock, unfortunately he wasn't the only one.

Stanley walked purposefully toward the creature and waving the file he had retrieved from his briefcase. “It says here that some sort of anomaly whisked you away from Sagittarius Majoris and deposited you into the closet of one Maylilin Disli of the planet they call Aslastia. The poor child was frightened out of her wits and nearly fell into a coma by getting a glimpse of you.”

The large Sagitarian responded, but it was short.

“Yes, yes, you've never seen a three-eyed being before and it's not your fault that you were there. The problem is that the anomaly must be hanging around your planet, possibly in some kind of orbit. It must be studied and rendered pacified,” Stanley tried to explain.

Obviously Sagitarians won't do it, being beastly and stupid. You would think they'd be more intelligent with six brains. All that wasted potential just waiting for evolution.

The creature responded again.

“About that, yes come with me. I'll get you back home to your...” Stanley checks the file, walking back toward the vehicle with a confused creature following him, “Two wives and seven children. I can't believe you can afford to support them on your waste retrieval salary.”

The creature responded.

“Oh, I see, you make them work and support you.”

The creature climbed into the passenger seat of the Roadster as Stanley got in on the opposite side.

“I'll have you back in your time and place in no time,” he assured the Sagitarian who was starting to become more animated as the shock of his circumstances wore off. They arrived at a large column-like fixture with a large transparent door.

“Just step through the door and you'll be home.”

The Sagitarian walked around the column and sniffed the doorway suspiciously.

Stanley checked the readings on his holographic wrist computer, “It's perfectly safe, I've used it often enough to send wayward beings back to where and when they belonged. All you need to do is step inside and you will be home again.”

Twelve eyes became suspicious slits for a moment but the creature sighed through its mouth and stepped inside and made a noise. The door slid shut again. The Sagitarian decided to panic, all twelve eyes wide open as it pounded on the door whining loudly.

“Well, no, I didn't say it was painless. It's not completely painless,” Stanley explained as he hit the ENACT key and began walking back to the vehicle without even looking back and the creature was sucked upward with the sound of a pneumatic tube before a bright light erupted for a second and his atoms were separated and then compressed before being shoved through a singularity set toward his appointed time and place.

The Sagitarian had been properly filed back to his own time and place, where he belonged.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Rough Draft Story Beginning

I've been depressed and too busy working to get much writing done. I hope to get back in the habit ASAP.

The Trials

The child was clothed in rags that barely held on to the skinny frame, her arms and legs were pock-marked with bloody sores and sunburn. Her stringy hair was not tied behind her head in the traditional knot. The child crawled into the chamber of the High One, leaving thin trails of blood behind her.

“Master!” The girl called out, between sobs, “We got lost in the sandstorm. I was the only one who managed to escape... my mother was to be the token (sob), but I now hold the amulet.”

Indeed this pathetic child possessed the Toko Amuleta in her tight fist, her shaky arm raised to show the precious thing to the man in the high seat.

“What has happened that a Token has been offered me this day?” The man finally spoke, as if he had not noticed her presence before.

The Sordes have taken village after village. My tribe has become nearly extinct, Master. We have no champion strong enough to send to the trials. The enemy has the advantage of us. We need your intervention, Master, please help us!” The girl who could barely lift her head up pleaded.

The old man nodded but frowned, “I understand. Our species is war-like. No matter how much we think we desire peace, it remains elusive. The Trials were created as an alternative to wholesale slaughters of the past, but it has become corrupted. The Sordes are much more powerful than your Doro tribe. They issue challenge after challenge and take village after village, because none of the other tribes are brave enough to object.”

The girl nodded.

The man sighed and said, “As for your tribe being unable to bring a worthy champion to meet these challenges, I must disagree.”

The girl was confused, “Master, I do not understand. My people are few and weak.”

The old man grinned, “There is one worthy Champion among them, child. You.”

She shook her head, “But I have offered myself as Token, Master, I am no longer a Doro, from now I am your property.”

“There is a precedent, it is long and complicated. I reject your offer of Tokenis. I will intervene to halt the challenges of the Sordes for the permitted interval. In the interim, you must be made healthy and trained for the Trials to come. You are the only hope for your tribe, child. This is the only answer I can give to the plea.”

The girl sat on the smooth rock floor of the torch-lit chamber quietly for a long moment. The High One raised the hood over his head but waited patiently for her answer.

“I accept, High One.” she said, it was barely more than a whisper.

“What is your name, Champion of the Doro?”

“I am called Cami, High One.”

“Champion Cami, you will be fed and rested tonight and you will be taken to a facility to start your training tomorrow. I will leave immediately to inform the Council of Sena of my intervention. They will not be happy, but it is within my legitimate power.” The man answered, as Cami became aware of four people entering the chamber.

“These are my faithful, once upon a time they too were offered as Tokens. They will help you.”

The High One sat in his appointed seat in the outdoor meeting site of the Sena. The representatives of Sordes were easy to find, they were jovial and mocking while the officials of the other tribes were quiet and stoic.

“Another day, another challenge!” The Sordes representative, Bolo Sendo, announced as he stepped to the floor to the cheers and laughs of his fellows.

The High One raised a hand, “There is an intervention.”

The Sordes representative tilted his head, there were already jeers and noises of outrage from the Sordes fellows “What is it?”

“I have invoked the eight section of the Law of the Champion. The Doro will be given time to develop their new champion, who is a child at present.” the High One announced.

“A child? How long are we expected to wait for this champion to be weaned and potty trained?” Bolo Sendo asked.

For the full term.”

Shouts and jeers from the Sordes supporters rained down. The Sena of the other tribes were quiet but were whispering amongst themselves. Some of them seemed fearful that their tribe might be targeted by the Sordes now that the Doro had been given protection.

This is outrageous, High One. Do not expect the support of Sordes at the next Sortition,” Bolo Sendo said with bitterness as he returned to his seat.

The Presider of the Sena finally interjected himself, “What is the meaning of this intervention, High One?”

The meaning is not occluded, Presider,” The old man replied as he began walking down onto the floor of the Sena. “I see the situation as clear as anyone. The Trials have become corrupted.”

The members of the Sena made their disagreement known by saying “Non, non!” and pounding the floor once with their foot.

I see the members of the Sena, so quiet when the Sordes abuse the Trials, have found their voices to oppose my intervention. You are all scared to oppose the challenges issued by the Sordes, lest you lose your far-flung villages to their wrath. Have you so little faith in your Champions?” The High One asked them, looking at each in the eye as he walked past.

'Non, Non!' stomp, stomp

He nodded, “I see very clearly, Presider, that the situation has become untenable. The Trials were never meant to be used as a way for one tribe to conquer and annihilate another. The Trials were supposed to stop that very thing from happening. Only the acquiescence of the frightened and cowed members of the Sena have made that possible.”

'Non! Non!” stomp, stomp

Have you gone too far, High One?” The Presider asked, “Your own position could be imperiled by these words you speak.”

In any case, Presider, the intervention stays. My impeachment or death does not repeal the order, it is inviolable,” the High One explained, “This is the law we have lived under for centuries, most of that time in peace. That peace has been threatened by aggression, but it is the scared who feed the peace to the beast, hoping it becomes sated before they become the next victim.”

'Non, Non!” stomp, stomp

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sirius Orphanage - Chapter Two (rough draft - test)

I'm thinking every other chapter could be a flashback or something, sort of end up with two related stories.

Chapter Two
An Earlier Time

Jenai loved to get up early and see the stars, for they shined only briefly between dark rise and light fall every morning. Sometimes the large orange circular behemoth would make an appearance and occasionally the spider galaxy could be seen fully with all of those spindly legs.

It was a strange morning that she found Assistant Caretaker Chub wandering the dark corridors while mumbling to himself. She could not make out what he was saying to himself but since he seemed to be on some mission she decided to follow him.

Jenai was careful not to make a sound. She knew that if he did not look directly at her and focus, Chub would not be able to see her. It was her special talent, to be able to go unnoticed. Most of the children in the facility had some sort of talent. It was suspected the others did too, they just hadn’t been figured out yet.

Children were not allowed down in these levels but Jenai liked to explore them. She had found an entire library of undecipherable books once, unfortunately she was never able to locate it again. Jenai was sure that Alabaster could have deciphered the language, it was his special talent. It was a mystery that may never be solved.

Jenai watched as part of a wall became a shiny metal door and Chub pulled out of chain of keys and carefully selected one of them. The doors swung open and he entered, Jenai moved closer as the doors shut. Fortunately one of them hadn’t closed all the way and she peered inside.

The room seemed mostly empty and dark. She could see the shadow of the Assistant Caretaker moving around inside but it was murky. Suddenly a large circular spot on the floor lit up a brilliant blue and the room could be seen. Whatever it was, it was the sole purpose of the room.

She saw Chub walk to the edge of the blue pool and drop something inside. Then the chubby young man with the dumb face seemed to wait. Then something emerged from the pool and into the air where it was snatched by his hands. As far as Jenai could determine this was some kind of message-sending device.

Why not just use the hyper like everyone else?

The blue light vanished and a solid floor reappeared as the room became dark once again. Jenai moved away to a corner in the corridor as the Assistant Caretaker locked the door and walked away, when he was gone she looked back and there was just wall there once again.

It was a mystery and Jenai liked mysteries. She made a note to tell her friend Craig all about this when they met at the water tanks later. In the meantime she was supposed to hurry or she’d be late to Secondary Mathtistics.

Craig listened to her story without interrupting. His face had broken out in a smile as the thought of solving a new mystery beckoned.

“Some kind of communications? It does sound that way, but what if it was something else? Maybe it was a trade?” Craig asked, “I wonder where the other side went? Can people cross over?”

Jenai hadn’t thought of that.

“That sounds extremely dangerous, sending people through some kind of portal,” she said, “When Chub arrived to help old man Martin, he came by ship. If people could cross through with the portal, wouldn’t it be faster and easier?”

Craig nodded, “You’re right about that. Traveling by ship would be a waste if the portal could be used to travel.”

“I guess that’s why it’s a mystery.”

He smiled, “Tell nobody else about this. Not until we’re finished finding out the secret.”

Jenai nodded, she was pleased. She liked solving mysteries, especially with Craig. She liked Craig.

That night, at a predetermined time, Jenai and Craig slipped out of their beds in their respective dorms and met near the main water tanks. The cool air was moving and it felt like standing in front of a cooling vent. There were no stars of course, no matter how one strained looking down off the platforms.

“How do you reckon we can get inside the room?” she asked.

He smiled, “I know a trick. I’ve seen one of those before. It’s sort of like your talent, if you look at it and focus you’ll see the lever that makes it visible,” Craig explained. Then he shrugged, “I have no idea how it does that, but they do exist.”

Jenai was surprised he had figured that out just from her description, “We’ll get this all done too quick at that rate, Craig, slow down.”

He laughed, then he told her “Let’s go have a look, it’s getting cold out here.”

Once inside they descended until coming to the darker sections of the orphanage. They nodded toward each other after looking around, not wanting to be caught. Jenai led him deeper into the level and paused to consider the path.

“Are you lost?” Craig asked.

She scoffed, “Of course not.”

He shrugged, “You never found that library a second time.”

Jenai rolled her eyes, would everyone always bring that up?

Then something looked familiar and she strode toward it, Craig followed. This was the right place but the door was already open and there were shadowy figures in the room again. Craig pulled her aside and into a recessed area of the corridor.

“We cannot get caught!” Craig whispered, she nodded only feeling thrilled that his mouth was right next to her ear as they huddled.

“I hear someone talking, quiet,” she said.

It was old man Martin, the Caretaker, he was talking to someone.

“I realize the severity of the situation. I only ask that you consider this facility neutral, we are not your enemy here,” the old man said. His shadow was next to a smaller one that flickered across the wall of the tiny portion of the room they could see.

They heard no response but soon the Caretaker spoke again, “I am sure adequate safeguards can be agreed upon, we can present all the proof you’d like. This is a fully civilian facility, after all, I can guarantee we are no threat to your society.”

The response they heard was a distinct growl. Craig and Jenai looked at each other, both wondering what kind of secret they had stumbled upon. Both wondering if they would get caught.

“The children, yes, they must stay in their beds, I understand,” the Caretaker answered, “I think it a bit extreme that you would punish them so harshly though.”

A whiny, even threatening growl.

“If the term is not negotiable, I will skip on to the next. I’m not sure what you mean about a portal incidence, I assure you we would never use them against your people. We are all civilians here...” then he shut up as the other voice growled a response, “Yes, yes. I don’t understand how such a modification would work, but if you say it is real… I am not arguing with you. I would never dream, after all we are guests on your planet.”

Craigs’ eyes were huge saucers, his breathing quickened. This made Jenai more frightened as well.

“If that is the term we must operate by, then we shall do so. Goodnight,” Martin said and they watched the smaller shadow move and grow bigger as it approached the glowing blue pool on the floor. For a brief moment they saw what had thrown the shadow. The four-legged alien was covered in an outer exoskelton, almost dog-like.

Martin locked the door and it became wall again and then the old man paused and looked around before walking away. Jenai and Craig breathed again, relieved to not have been spotted.

“What was that?” Jenai asked.

“Diplomacy,” Craig answered, “I don’t think it’s good news, but the Caretaker seems to think whatever the terms were are the best we can get.”

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sirius Orphanage - Chapter One - (test)

Sirius Orphanage

Chapter One – Dark Rise

The boy was outside of the window, looking down from the ledge. A rope was all that held him in place, but he could not see the bottom below. Darkness had already fallen down there.

“Ottie, see anything?” Another boy from inside the building asked.

“No. Too dark down there,” he responded and pulled himself back up to the ledge with a flick of the wrist and then he was standing on the ledge and he rope disappeared up a sleeve. Ottie was just a normal-looking boy in light blue pajamas again as he climbed through the window.

“Then we have less than a kilomin before it’s bedtime and lights out,” an older blonde-haired boy said who the others looked toward and nodded, “That means if anyone is on deck, or exploring below or out by the water tower meeting a girl, they need to start back before the stalkers appear.”

Another older boy with close-cropped dark hair looked around the common area and crossed his arms, “I don’t see Danny or Maxwell. These kids...”

“Danny was one deck below,” a younger boy with a smart-alec sneer, “I think he said he was playing with a stalker pup.”

The boys groaned and shook their heads. Imaginary pets were against their code because it might make one more sympathetic to the stalkers. The oldest boy looked around and chose one of the younger boys, “Sam, go and find Danny and drag him back before bedtime.”

The boy nodded and took off through the far exit of the room.

“Now, does anyone know where Maxwell is?”

The boy was sitting on the edge of the platform swinging his legs above the abyss far below as if he had no worries at all. Across a space too large to jump was a similar platform, both built around very large metal tanks. A girl, also in pajamas, was sitting on the edge of that one.

“How long do you think we’ll be here?” she asked.

“Forever probably,” the boy answered.

She scrunched up her face, “Maybe we’ll be adopted someday.”

The boy looked doubtful and frowned, “When’s the last time anyone was adopted from here? Do you remember the last time anyone even visited?”

She thought and shook her head, “I don’t remember very far back.”

The boy nodded, he had already figured out that nobody could remember farther back than a few solar cycles. It had been his private hobby to investigate this, it was a slow process and had become a secondary thing since he had met Loria.

“Do you want to come over here?” he asked her.

She smiled but shook her head, “It’s getting late, Max, and if I go over I might not be able to make myself come back to this side.”

Suddenly another boy was standing next to Maxwell. Max looked up to see Ottie there holding a rope that was dancing in the air such as should have been impossible.

“You should be heading back,” the boy said, “Hi, Loria.”

“Oh, hello Ottie,” the girl said starting to stand up, “I think it’s time to go. Good night Max, I’ll see next time!”

Maxwell was disappointed, “Ottie, I know what time it is.”

He got up and looked into the abyss below to see that the darkness had risen farther than he had realized. He nodded to Ottie, “Are you ever going to teach anyone else how to do rope magic?”

Ottie looked offended, “It’s my thing, find your own.”

Maxwell laughed as they started moving from one platform to another back toward the main boys building past the water tanks. Then they froze when they looked back and saw a grayish creature on the top of the one they had just passed.

“It’s too early for a stalker!” Maxwell said.

“It’s not messing with us, though. Not until darkness rises,” Ottie pointed out.

The wolf-like creature covered in a grayish exoskeleton paid little mind to them. It was as if it was enjoying the last bits of light the way someone might get up really early and look at stars.

“Let’s just hurry,” Maxwell said. The last part of their journey was a climb of a few stories back into the building. He looked over to see if Loria was okay and saw a figure already climbing through a window on that side.

“Let me do this, Max. It’s cool,” Ottie said, Max was going to ask what it was but a rope tightened around his chest and under his arms and both he and Ottie went airborne all the way to the outside ledge of the proper floor. Then the rope disappeared again.

“How do you do that?” Maxwell asked, Ottie just laughed and shrugged.

As they entered the large bedchamber the other boys were already in their beds and the light was dimming.

“Hurry! Get in your bed!” one of the older boys said.

Ottie and Maxwell had beds on the far end since they were younger, so they took off running. The room was getting darker and they could hear the other boys chatter. It was getting dark faster than normal and hey had almost been late.

Ottie whimpered and nearly stumbled. Maxwell looked back to see if he was okay and he could see a dark spot near the entrance. His stomach knotted.

“Stalker!” someone yelled and the animal looked in that direction, momentarily distracted.

Maxwell was near his own bed and was thinking of helping Ottie but then a rope appeared from the boys sleeve and he was flying through the air towards his own bed. Rope magic again. Maxwell hopped onto his own bed and pulled the covers over himself.

Ottie and everyone was safe. The stalker would pad around the whole chamber for hours but there was little for it and its pack to do but patrol. Nobody would dare get out of bed before the twilight.

The only human that was safe from the stalkers and other threats was the Caretaker. The Caretaker was a chubby younger man who walked slow and talked slow as if he were dim-witted. Max knew the guy was probably smart though, he just wondered if the man was motivated.

Chub had been the assistant once upon a time. There had been a much older man, Martin, with a gray beard who had been in charge for a long time. Something happened one night, though. As far as Max could gather, a boy and a girl had been caught out in the dark-rise and the old man Martin and Chub had tried to save them.

Apparently those two orphans had entered a mirror gate to escape and were never seen or heard from again. There were more than stalkers around in those days and Martin had tried to appease the angry creatures who had lost their prey. He had somehow slipped and fallen down into the abyss.

Maxwell had tried to formulate a time-line through all of the events. He could not make it work. As far as he could tell, the passage of time was not uniform at the orphanage. It seemed impossible but he once tried to calculate how long he had been there. It came out to sixteen solar cycles, which was impossible because he was twelve and he had been dropped off when he was seven.

If sixteen cycles had really passed Max figured he would be full-grown by now. He wasn’t and this was proof that his calculations were wrong. Even if someone were manipulate time and the clocks, they couldn’t mess with how fast someone grew, right?

Maxwell had always listened and made mental notes when the older boys spoke. Over time he had found that Wendell, the oldest, arrived at age nine. The second oldest kid, the blonde named Ranger said he had been about ten. But Ranger had arrived first somehow and nobody seemed to see or understand the discrepancy.

Nuggets of information collected over a long time was suggesting that time was not linear, and Maxwell could not wrap his mind around it. It was a puzzle he was unable to solve and he didn’t dare mention it to anyone else. It was his thing, like Otties’ rope magic.

Chub was on the deck, at the top of the orphanage. He was peering down into a circular pit that was like a miniature abyss. A black rope tied off nearby disappeared into its depths. The Caretaker was waiting for something to emerge. Finally something did.

A black-colored version of a stalker pulled itself out of the round abyss and stood there. The Caretaker nodded.

“Well, Barnabas, did you detect anything?” Chub asked. In response the creature whimpered.

The man nodded in a resigned way, and started pulling the rope back out of the abyss, “I guess tonight is not the night, then.”

Once the rope was completely out of the abyss, it disappeared and was once again solid metal, just another part of the deck. Chub yawned and stretched. The darkness should be on its way back down soon and the kids would be awake again. Twilight was always his favorite part of the day, you could briefly see all of the stars and sometimes the husk would pass overhead.

Thankfully none of the kids remembered ever seeing the husk. That would bring forth far too many questions. Even if they might occasionally steal away to see the stars, none had so far seen the burned out wreck of space station that still orbited the abandoned planet.

The only way off this planet now was through a portal and those were far too dangerous. Chub could get away with a little occasional exploration by sending Barnabas through but he shuddered to think about what would happen if the kids learned of it.

Chub had been worried when Ottie had found about his rope magic. He had awaited the rush of kids trying to figure out their own gifts, but none of them had. It was a relief that most of them was completely disinterested and continued their routines. The charm had worked to suppress that normal instinct in humans, that which made a person ask “Why?”

Wendell was nearly ready to be made Assistant Caretaker. Soon enough he would be taken off charm and Chub would start showing and telling him about the ways of this world. Without charm his curiosity would explode of course, but the answers would anchor him quickly.

Barnabas growled and looked up at Chub. Chub smiled, “Go home, boy!”

The creature ran off to join the stalkers and other creatures that fled as the day returned. Their realm was the darkness. As the creature leaped over the edge, Chub wondered briefly if it would be back. Except that it always came back.

The light soon obscured the stars, their presence between the dark and the light never lasted very long.

“It’s morning, time to make a head count and get them breakfast,” Chub said to himself.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Escape from Free Republic - Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Thirteen

With his hands on his hands Felix grinned at the three Marines guarding node chamber as he approached. He had dropped his weapons in full view and now walked toward them as if to surrender himself.

The device that would cripple their armored suits was in plain view on his chest but these Marines didn’t know anything about it. They may have heard that there was such a device, since it had been used quite effectively in the battles down on Sync but they wouldn’t be expecting this.

In fact, Felix didn’t even know whether it would work on board the Umbrage, which had a powerful field to dampen that sort of thing. Fortunately that field was directed outward rather than inward.

Name?” One of the Marines asked as he approached.

Felix Santayana, I was born in Upper Range Province,” he told them, “Although I’m sure the records of my birth were destroyed in one of your bombings.”

Just another meter or two.

Tell me, do your people still carry out show trials before the execution, or after?” Felix asked, still grinning with his face-plate open.

Those who surrender do not get executed,” One of the marines said, “Stop there and turn around.”

Felix stopped, “I suppose it’s hard labor in some asteroid mine for someone like me.”

Now! Felix flexed his left wrist, this was to set off the device. Immediately his suits instrumentation went haywire, but he heard thumps as the three marines hit the floor. He turned to see them, the suits so heavy that they couldn’t really move from inside. The other rebels came to join him,

Good job, Felix,” his commander, the new guy named Tom Grier said. They took the weapons from the Marines and moved them aside.

Felix, check out the node chamber, see if there’s a trap or anything.” Tom Grier ordered, Felix saluted and exaggerated a march towards the open chamber. Inside the oval-shaped chamber he saw two large contraptions that filled the two ends, from ceiling to floor. Felix could see pipes and ducts along the walls, as more systems than just gravity and field generators were sent through.

Felix was about to send an all-clear message when someone stepped out from behind the large module at the far end of the chamber. The armored suit was unfamiliar, it was much too large, as if the torso allowed one to curl up for naps inside.

Who…?” Felix managed to say before a large hole opened up in his chest, right through the rebel armor he wore. Everything went black rather quickly.

Blade could see the others start to enter the chamber but when they saw the body they moved to one side of the entrance or the other. One of them had been wearing the armor of a Marine; Tom Grier.

Tom Grier was the rebel scum that had destroyed his body. Falling from the tower had broken his spine, but Blade didn’t let that stop him. Blade had pulled and pushed with his arms, he had left a trail of blood and bits of flesh on the ground behind him. By the time he had been found by the agent named Bolton, he was nearly bled out.

Thankfully, Bolton had taken him into the shuttle. Bolton did not ask questions when Blade demanded to be taken to the Marine Tech ship Dispensation. The few people on that ship hadn’t wanted to let them open the hatch but a medical emergency required them to render aid.

Blade had known about the prototype suit for months, they had tested him for it. Using Blade they had made sure that a full-grown Marine would be comfortable inside it. He had followed orders not to tell anyone, not even Admiral Robinson about the prototype. It never left his mind though. His thoughts and dreams had revolved around that armored suit everyday since.

He lay there helpless on the cot for days in the Medical Ward of the Dispensation wondering how would he get to the suit? Except he had known, deep down, that he was already connected to the suit. His mind had been the one they used when programming it for the psych connection. It was to be much more advanced than the present physical relay. It was.

The suit had felt him there. It had called to him and asked for orders. Blade had even been a little surprised but pleasantly surprised. He told the suit to come to him and to kill anyone else that it saw along the way.

The screams in the corridor were like church bells, raising his flagging spirits. The suit appeared in the doorway and then opened itself, lifting Blade’s broken body and fitting him inside. Blade no longer needed his own legs, he had better ones. A suit that was more powerful than any Marine armor, one that was like its own spacecraft while waiting for the chance to get inside the Umbrage.

It could have even survived the fall and burn into the atmosphere of the planet, Sync, below. It was truly a remarkable machine. Possibly one that could be used to rule a world. For now he would be satisfied with revenge against the one who had crippled him. Then maybe, he would make the Umbrage his own ship.

Something approximating a smile crossed his lips.

He thought to the machine and it began walking toward the only exit in the node chamber, Blade was looking forward to tearing Tom Grier into pieces. After finishing off these rebels he would heard toward the bridge and introduce himself to Admiral Robinson properly. His plans were falling into place.

What is that thing?” Someone asked.

It’s massive.”

I’ve never seen anything like it,” Tom told them, “It doesn’t matter how big it is, we still have to take it out. Get those explosive charges ready.”

What’s happening Tom?” Maggie’s voice asked, she sounded concerned.

I don’t have time to talk, okay?” Tom replied, “You didn’t warn me about this thing, is it some kind of tank?”

I don’t know what you’re talking about, Tom. I don’t see anything moving near you on the sensors.

Tom knew Maggie well enough to know that statement did not sound like a lie. She didn’t know about that thing? It wasn’t showing up on the sensors? This was not good news.

It’s a huge armored suit, probably from the Marines.”

The General hasn’t said anything about such a suit Tom. Not around me.

Time was up.

Tom took the QBR-44 from his back and turned the corner. The massive armor suit was only a few meters away. The arm of the suit didn’t move but part of the forearm moved aside and a weapon appeared which was already moving toward Tom.

Tom dodged sideways as the weapon fired, an energy beam punched a hole right through the wall of the chamber. Tom returned fire, an explosive round right at the chest of the massive suit. Some sort of force-field had stopped it from causing any damage.

This was not good at all.

The rebels were leaning over from the doorway firing rounds at the enemy armor, but it was paying no attention to them.

Explosive charge, now!” Tom told them. He moved away from the hulking suit toward the back of the chamber as the first charge landed amidst its feet. The suit stopped and seemed to look down as the explosion rocked the whole chamber and floor.

The suit appeared undamaged, unlike the floor and part of the nearby walls.

What is this thing?”

The suit now started moving toward Tom a lot faster than it had any right to be moving. Tom fired a burst of anti-armor rounds right at it, but they only seemed to scratch some paint of its chest. Then it stopped and the faceplate moved aside.

It was the sniper he had fought in Valla.


The sneer on the mans face broke into an ugly smile, “I wondered that myself, Tom Grier, but I think the better question is ‘why?’. The answer to that question is simple, so that I can get my revenge on you and others who wronged me!”

Blade took aim at Tom Grier with his powerful V-Beam weapon just as the lights went out. Something thumped him on the back of the suit, probably those rebels with their puny weapons again. Now why was the night vision and sensors not working? Thankfully life support was working, the air circulation system was running in fits and starts.

The lights came back on and he wasn’t looking at Tom Grier anymore. He was looking at one of the gravitic nodes. The suit informed him that some of field generator had caused a computer error but that systems were self-repairing. He could move again.

Now where did Tom and his merry band of rebels run off to?

There, near the entrance to the chamber. Two of them were carrying the body of that rebel he had killed first. Tom Grier had holstered his big Marine rifle and was holding something else in his hands. With a thought a powerful projectile gun appeared in the hand of Blades suit, since the energy weapon was still malfunctioning.

Your device to cripple the Marine suits don’t work on this one, Tom!” He said as he made the suit take the first steps toward the chamber exit. Then he extended his gun arm and thought the order to fire but nothing happened.

The rebels were moving fast away from him, down the corridor.

The computer said the rounds had indeed been fired but that the rounds had been suspended inside of the barrels. He saw a representation of this appear as if watching an x-ray machine, the rounds then moved quickly in reverse and exploded out the back of the suits armored elbow.

The suit was also being pulled and turned. The whole chamber was twisting, he could hear the metal moaning through the thick armor. The suit turned around and he could see the gravitic node had been destroyed by explosives, the explosion itself was struggling to expand against the force of artificial gravity out of control.

The chamber and everything else, including his armored suit, was twisting around the fiery node as if it were a small black hole. It seemed to be happening in slow motion to Blade, who had been mesmerized by the view for a moment. Now he was struggling to get free of the grip of the depolarized, unbalanced gravity node.

A vessel the size of the Umbrage required two nodes, at polar ends but near the middle decks to balance the artificial gravity. If one were to weaken, the other would weaken automatically in response, because the whole system depended on balance. The two nodes were in special chambers because they needed to be the most protected parts of the ship.

If one of the nodes were to be blown up and the other was prevented from shutting down in response, the out of control gravitic forces could twist and tear the ship apart.

This was Tom Griers whole goal, of course. The destruction of the Umbrage would be a severe blow to the Free Republic. They couldn’t build ships like it any longer, things had gone downhill far too much for that.

We have to get off this ship, now!” Tom told the others as they ran. He had sent the same message to the other team.

Signal the base to send a ship to get us!” He said, but it was too soon. There was probably no chance a message could reach the ground, there was too much jamming. In fact, the unleashed gravitic reaction was causing more than the fleet ever could.

Tom, what’s happening?” Maggie’s voice sounded in his suit helmet again.

The Umbrage is toast, Maggie. You need to get on an escape pod, now!” He answered.

Umbrage, Marine Deck

Everybody to the escape pods! The Dispensation is moving into position to pick us up!” General Gallant ordered, it was a good thing most of the Marines were on Sync because the Tech ship wasn’t that big. The alarms were ringing all through the ship, it looked like the whole thing might tear itself apart.

Gallant checked the last of the officer quarters and assumed most had already gotten off. He moved to get aboard one of the few remaining pods when he heard the metal scream and the whole bulkhead started pulsating and then twisting as he watched. It made him feel sick to his stomach but it was all the impetus he needed to get out.

There was no saving the Umbrage from this. He strapped into the seat as the controller Maggie Anders climbed in.

What are you still doing here?”

Looking for you!”

It’s not my ship, I’m not going to go down with it!” he told her as he slapped the release mechanism and the pod pushed away from the ship.

He breathed a sigh of relief but a whimper from Maggie Anders made him open his eyes and look out the porthole. Instead of a gentle move away from the twisting hulk of carrier Umbrage, the pods and a lot of wreckage broken from the large vessel were swaying and being pulled around with it. Like playthings floating in the tub of an unruly child.

General Gallant used the radio to contact the Dispensation, “Where are you?”

I can’t get any closer! This ship would be caught in that mess too.” Lt General Edwards responded.

Get as close as you dare! We’re going to need some help!”

Free Republic Fleet Carrier Umbrage, Bridge

What is happening to my ship?” Admiral James “Jim” Robinson tried to make himself hear above the alarms and the sounds of twisting metal, “Commander Grabble!”

Grabble finally appeared, “Admiral, we need to get in an escape pod!”

No! I’m not leaving my post!”

Admiral, this ship is dying, it’s not going to survive this!”

It must, the Umbrage is the most powerful ship in the Free Republic fleet, we must be victorious!”

The Admiral was in full denial about what was happening. The crew had abandoned their posts and were getting out in the escape pods.

Admiral, we must leave at once!”

The rebels did this! Order a bombardment of the surface, all cities! Turn them all to dust!”

The Commander shook his head, he couldn’t get through. The Admiral was truly out of his mind. The Commander left and ran towards one of the remaining escape pods. The Admiral was now bouncing around the bridge almost uncontrollably in his hover-chair.

I’m not going to lose this one!” Admiral James Robinson vowed, “We aren’t going to lose, we’re going to be victorious and all those who don’t join us shall be vanquished!”

Somehow the Admiral made it to his office. He activated the holograph of his dearest Sarah, her visage shifted and waved along with the gravitational forces tearing the ship apart. She was one of his deepest and most profound regrets. How could she have left him? Even for the vaunted Emperor? Though he had accepted it, he was only now understanding that he did partially blame her.

My Sarah,” he whispered with a raspy breath.

Then the power went out.