paulmundane

General and somewhat random story things

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Tales From the Bucket 34

The troops hoisted Maychange up by from either side, and dragged him back to his room. They were not gentle when they tossed Maychange into one of his chairs.  In all fairness, he had stabbed one of them in the face with a fork, so Maychange could understand their hostility.

N’gyr sat down across from Maychange.  He rubbed his chin, and rolled his shoulders.  “That was very unpleasant, Captain Maychange.”

Maychange tried to sneer, but was sure the effect was lost.  His whole face was swollen, and the room had a reddish tint to it.  Several smacks against a bulk head will do that for you though.

“Unpleasant,” N’gyr stated again.  “I was hoping to be able to deal with you on a more civilised level, but you are as human as any of your race.”

“Fancy that,” Maychange spat.

“It amazes me that you have managed so far,” N’gyr continued.  “You humans.  Full of hatred for one another.  Ready to kill each other for the slightest transgressions.  How did you ever manage to get into space?”

“Huh.”  Maychange rubbed his neck.  “Last I checked, you were ready to kill me just a second ago.”  Maychange waved at N’gyr’s face.  “Soup’s a pretty minor transgression.”

N’gyr didn’t respond to Maychange’s comment.  “I don’t think I understand,”  N’gyr said instead.  “Clarisence Roccas has been on the run for years.  Why would she give herself up now.  Just for you?”  N’gyr looked across the table at Maychange, and raised an eyebrow.  “Have you become that close in your travels?”

“Of course not,” Maychange replied indignantly.  “She’s half my age.”

N’gyr considered.  “Then why turn herself in?  What is she planning?”  He smiled at Maychange.  “What do you think she’s planning, Captain Maychange?”

Maychange could feel the words travelling from his brain directly to his lips.  He smiled crooked, and did nothing to stop them.  “Oh I’m sure she’s here to break me out.”  Maychange wiped a line of blood from his lip.  “The Girl’s going to come in here, share a bit of small talk, eat some of her native foods out of nostalgia.”  He waved dramatically to the door.  “Then me and her will escape together.”  Maychange leant back, and casually checked his mouth for loose teeth.  “Won’t be much you can do about it.”

N’gyr narrowed his eyes sceptically.  “Really.  And why is that, Captain Maychange?”

Maychange smiled.  “Because we’re just going to vanish.”  He opened his hands, and mimed a small explosion.  “Poof.”

N’gyr stared at Maychange for a long time.  He finally leant back in his chair with a sigh.  “Well,” he commented.  “It is good to see you are adapting to our language.”  N’gyr chuckled, and dismissed the concept.  He motioned towards Maychange’s bathroom.  “There is ceremony to these things,” he commented.  “You will have time to wash up before Clarisence Roccas comes to make her magical escape with you.”  N’gyr gave a look of mock concern.  “You can get to the washroom without help?”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Maychange grumbled.  He stood despite the nauseous pain that shot from his knee.  “You go and wait on whatever asinine ceremony you need.  I’ll still be here when you get back.”

Tales From the Bucket 33

Maychange sat at the table.  He stared at the food in front of him, but he didn’t feel hungry.  Quite the opposite in fact; he felt dizzy, and slightly nauseous.  Maychange felt like someone had held him down, tore open his neck, and used the hole to dump vast amounts of information into his brain.  This was possibly because that was exactly what had happened to him.

Maychange gingerly rubbed the wound on his neck.  It felt like someone was holding a butane torch close to his neck, and Maychange couldn’t get away from the thought that at any moment, that torch was going to be turned fully on him.  Maychange hadn’t looked at his neck yet.  He didn’t need to really; he knew what was there.  He’d seen the same thing on Hound’s neck, and covering Clarisence’s body.  Maychange knew there was a glowing blue scribble of a tattoo on his neck.

The doctor had come and gone a few times, checking his work.  He’d grumbled for Maychange to not pick at it, or scratch it, or touch it at all.  The doctor had been clear that such treatment of the tattoo could mean a second application.  He’d explained this all on his first visit, and repeated it on the second.  Both times, it had taken him less than three syllables to make his point clear.

Maychange had understood every word, or at least, the concepts thrown forward.  He tried not to look surprised, but he was.  Not at the understanding; he got what the tattoo was supposed to do.  He understood that much.  No, what took Maychange by surprise was how the language worked.  It was like N’gyr had explained to him.  Every phrase was a concept.  There was more to Jakara than just words.  The tone, the body language, where emphasis was put all changed meanings of simple sounds.  Asking for a drink of water could just as easily translate to go drown yourself, depending on a twitch of the eye, or a change in accent.

N’gyr ate his dinner across from Maychange.  He offered a smile, and motioned to the meal in front of Maychange.  “You may not believe me Captain Maychange,” he commented,  “but food will make you feel better.”

“I’ll feel better after I tear your head from your neck,” Maychange replied in Jakara.  He blinked at the savage tone in his voice.  He meant every word; he just wasn’t sure he’d meant to say them aloud.

N’gyr showed no offence to Maychange’s comment.  “Our doctor says that you’ve shown a full recovery from the procedure.  He says you’ve shown an honest interest in learning our language.”

Maychange frowned.  “I haven’t spoken to him,” he stated.

“Not in words,” N’gyr agreed.  “But you have spoken plenty in action.  The way you hold yourself, the tilt when you listen to us talk.  You may hate your gift, but you are fascinated by it as well.”

Maychange gave a weak chuckle.  “I’m that easy to read?”

“Your entire race is,” N’gyr commented.  He motioned to Maychange’s food again, and smiled as Maychange took a bite.  “When we met with your Captain Hound, we saw all your race offered.  He talked about diplomacy and trust, but he spoke of betrayal and fear.”

“Just not in words,”  Maychange shrugged.  “He isn’t much of a poker player to begin with.”  Maychange saw that the comment was lost on N’gyr.  “He’s not a very good liar,” Maychange corrected.  “Man in his position has enough times to learn though.”

“He may be a liar, but you?” N’gyr smiled.  “You are an honest man.  Even when you lied to me, said you were just a junk pilot, you were telling the truth.  A man that is honest even in his lies is a rare thing, even amongst The Jakara.”  N’gyr motioned to the tattoo on Maychange’s neck.  “When I said this was a gift, I meant it.  You are an honest man, and you deserve better ways to relay that then your language offers.”

Maychange shook his head slowly.  “Your men held me down, and forced this on me.”  Knit eyebrows, hands on the table, knuckles up.  Anger.  “You didn’t ask if I want this.”

N’gyr shrugged.  Indifference in any language.  “You would have said no,” he stated simply.  “Sometimes, we must be shown what we are missing.  Sometimes we will turn away from a blessing, simply because it is new or different.  Your Captain Hound, wherever he is, never appreciated his gift the way I think you will.”

Maychange gave a bark of a laugh.  “Now we get to it,” he stated.  “You think I’ll just tell you that Captain Hound has a camp on the largest continent, near where the Kryten river meets the lake I don’t know the name of, simply because you’ve taught me your language?”  Maychange slowed at the end, but it took less than a heartbeat for him to betray Hound.  “I don’t understand why I told you that.”

N’gyr gave a shrug.  “It must have been weighing heavily on your mind.”  He gave a slight smile to Maychange.  “Your crew is safe there you think?  I do not trust this Captain Hound very much.  Do you think he will keep your people safe?”  N’gyr leant across the table.  “Do you think he will keep Clarisence Roccas safe if he has to?”

“I don’t have to trust him,” Maychange blurted.  “He’s an ass, but he’ll protect The Girl.  He wants her as bad as you do.  He knows that she understands Fold Engines.”  Maychange stopped himself again, far too late.  He stared confusion at the table.  “This is part of what you did to me, isn’t it?”  He stared hatred at N’gyr.  “I’m talking before my brain can tell me to shut up.”

N’gyr shrugged again.  “And your salvage ship?  You have Clarisence Roccas’ Fold Engine on board.”  N’gyr smiled friendly.  “Your ship would be the last one in human possession.  Do you think Captain Hound is treating it well?  He does have your ship, does he not?”

Maychange rubbed the small locator in his pocket, and thought of the beacon he’d placed on the side of The Trebuchet.  He hummed Quince’s song, and looked about the room quickly.  “Walls are kind of an off white grey,” he commented.  “Not sure what you’d call that.  Ocean grey or military grey.”

N’gyr raised an eyebrow.  “Really Captain Maychange, are you thinking this will keep you from telling me?”  N’gyr leant over the table.  “It is not with Captain Hound then.  Where is your ship, Captain?”

“My bedspread is knit, but feels like a soft plastic.  What’s it made of?”  Maychange leant back on his chair.  “I mean, it’s comfortable, but that’s the sort of thing that can keep a man up at night; not knowing what he’s wrapped in.”

“Captain Maychange,” N’gyr tried again.  The annoyance was barely hidden in his voice.  “I want to talk about your ship.”

Maychange sipped at the brown soup.  “Tastes like beef.  I’m wondering about that, because normally when I don’t know what a meat is, it tastes like chicken to me.  Do you think beef’s going to be a regular go to for me now that you’ve put this damn tattoo on my neck?”  Maychange stabbed a bit of meat with his fork, and chewed it thoughtfully.  “Might not be so bad.  Beef’s hard to come by.”  Maychange motioned to his bowl.  “It’s a bit hot today.  You should be concerned about burns.”

N’gyr smacked his hand on the table irritably.  “Your ship, Captain Maychange.”

“Is my damn ship!” Maychange replied.  He grabbed the side of his bowl, and upturned it at N’gyr.

N’gyr had a moment of surprise before the pain kicked in.  He clawed at his face as the hot soup burnt his skin.  He didn’t scream out, but instead gave off the growl of an angry predator.  Maychange vaulted over the table in the confusion.  He punched N’gyr in the back of the head on the way by for good measure, and ran for the door.

The troops that had held Maychange down before were on either side of the door as Maychange bolted.  They were surprised to see him, but professional enough to go for their weapons quickly.  Maychange drove his fork into the cheek of the one guard to his left.  He grabbed the man’s laser pistol from his hands, and slammed it butt first into the face of the troop to his right.  Maychange quickly pistol whipped the bleeding man to his left as well, just to be sure.

In the room, N’gyr was already walking to the door.  He didn’t show more than annoyance in his features, and he didn’t show any rush to reach Maychange.  N’gyr opened his hands to Maychange, and Maychange understood the meaning well enough.  Where will you go? N’gyr was suggesting.  Maychange hit a panel on the wall, and watched as the door slid closed and locked.

Maychange ran down the halls of the N’yarlath.  In the back of his mind, he considered how much they looked like the inside of Clarisence’s ship; all organic and softly curved with rib like bulkheads.  He had no idea where he was headed.

Maychange turned his forth random intersection before he ran into anyone else aboard the N’yarlath.  Three troops stood in the hall; rifles already drawn.  Maychange skidded to a stop, and turned to run back the opposite direction.

N’gyr walked the hall calmly; the two injured troops from Maychange’s room flanking him.  He gave a slight smile as Maychange skidded again to a halt.  “How far did you think you would get, Captain Maychange?  These halls are part of our detention area.  Did you think one would just lead you to our docking bay?”

“I was hoping, yes,” Maychange admitted.  He raised the pistol at N’gyr.

N’gyr didn’t flinch at the weapon pointed at him.  The troops on either side of him clicked the safeties off of their rifles.  The same clicking sound was painfully audible behind Maychange.  “I would put your weapon down,” N’gyr suggested.  “We can return to your room, and put this whole event behind us.”  N’gyr smiled.  “We still have so much to discuss, you and I.”

Maychange dropped the gun.  He put his hands up slightly, and considered his options.  “Nah,” he decided out loud, just before running at N’gyr.

N’gyr watched with mild interest as Maychange rushed at him.  He held up one hand to his troops, ordering them to stand down.  Maychange watched as the man dropped into a kata form similar to Clarisence’s.  Maychange swung a wild haymaker at N’gyr.  N’gyr shifted backwards by a step, and tilted his head away from Maychange’s fist.  He followed with a quick fist of his own, catching Maychange below his arm.

N’gyr lashed out a snap kick to Maychange’s knee.  The kneecap popped audibly, and Maychange fell forward.  He tried to catch N’gyr with a kidney shot on the way down, but N’gyr was too fast.  He caught Maychange’s fist, and twisted Maychange’s arm around hard.  Finally, N’gyr grabbed the back of Maychange’s head, and slammed his forehead into a bulkhead.

Maychange bounced off the wall, and landed on his back.  He lay on the floor, blinking away a galaxy of stars.  N’gyr stood over him, and stared down stone faced at Maychange.

“Such a disappointment, Captain Maychange,” N’gyr commented.  His face showed no emotion as he stepped down on Maychange’s throat.  “I had hoped you were different than the other humans.  No matter, I think you have helped us as much as you can.”  N’gyr’s lip twitched into a slight smile as he applied pressure to Maychange’s throat.  “Goodbye, Captain Maychange.”

Maychange feigned defeat as long as he could.  He flashed to action suddenly, and grabbed N’gyr by the foot, and twisted.  N’gyr was forced to hop to keep his balance.  Maychange rolled himself up, and kicked N’gyr in the ass just as he let go of the Jakara’s foot.  N’gyr stumbled forward, and took a bulkhead between his neck and shoulder.

Maychange scrambled back to his feet.  He rubbed his neck, and clenched his fists.  He lunged forward, and smacked N’gyr in the chin with an impressive uppercut.  Maychange put his full into the hit, but N’gyr did not go down.

N’gyr shot forward.  He buried a fist in Maychange’s stomach; knocking the breath out of the captain.  N’gyr gave Maychange a wicked right cross to the cheek, and a second from the left.  Maychange swung wild, and again N’gyr caught his fist.  This time, N’gyr let Maychange’s momentum follow through, and guided his fist full speed into the hull of the N’yarlath.  Maychange felt three of his knuckles pop against the wall.  N’gyr grabbed Maychange by the hair.  He smashed Maychange hard face first into the nearby bulkhead.  He did it again, and again.

“N’gyr,” a female officer stated from nearby.  Maychange wasn’t sure where this woman had come from; but he was sure he’d missed a bit of what was going on around him.

N’gyr slammed Maychange once more against the bulkhead, and held him there.  He sighed slight annoyance.  “What is it, K’thu?”

“We have a transmission from the planet.  It’s on a private channel, used only by the Roccas in the past.  Clarisence Roccas is willing to discuss the release of Captain Maychange, so long as he is alive and unharmed.”  The woman paused for effect, staring at the bloody pulp of Maychange.  “She is willing to turn herself in, in exchange for his release.”

N’gyr let go of Maychange’s hair.  Maychange dropped rag-doll to the ground.  “Clarisence Roccas will have to settle with alive,” N’gyr commented coldly.  “Invite her aboard.  We will trade her for the Captain Maychange.”

Tales From the Bucket 32

The large porthole of the N’yarlath was segmented like a fly’s eye.  It was made from a thick red glass.  Maychange stared out at space beyond.  He felt like he was watching the Jakara ships pass through a jelly-mould.  There was plenty of movement to watch.  Stealing away with the families of the workers was akin to kicking a wasps nest, and the Jakara here in space were out in full force at all times.  Maychange could only assume that things were worse on the ground.

Maychange wasn’t sure how long it’d been since he’d been whisked away to the N’yarlath.  He’d slept twice, and eaten three times.  Day and night were really only concepts when you were in space, and without a clock they were difficult concepts to track.

The room was a gilded cage, as romantics would call it.  It was large, with all the facilities one would want.  The bath was private, and had actual water.  The bed was overstuffed, and the food was real, not processed.  Still, the door was locked, and Maychange wasn’t about to allow himself to become comfortable.

Maychange had expected to be interrogated immediately upon being shipped to the N’yarlath.  So far though, he’d had few visitors.  A girl came in every little while with food, but she never made eye contact.  There was also a doctor at one point who’d stuffed an odd putty into Maychange’s shoulder wound, and came occasionally to check on the healing.  Neither of them had spoken to Maychange, though the doctor did mutter a bit over him in Jakara.

Maychange was guessing it to be his third night when The Officer walked in.  He was carrying a tray of food; enough for Maychange and himself.  “Hello Captain Maychange,” the man offered.  “I am N’gyr.”  N’gyr looked at the table.  “May I join you?”

Maychange motioned to a chair opposite him.  “It’s your ship,” Maychange commented.  He watched as N’gyr sat down.  “It is your ship, right N’gyr?”

“It is my ship.  We do not use titles as you humans do.  Everyone aboard the N’yarlath knows their job, and their place.”  N’gyr smiled.  “I am a captain like you, I suppose.  You may call me such if it makes you comfortable.”

“Just N’gyr is fine,”

“As you wish, Captain Maychange.”  N’gyr watched Maychange eat.  “You are enjoying our food?”

Maychange pointed to a bowl of thick brown soup.  “Whatever this is,” he commented.  “It’s good.”

“I am glad to hear that,” N’gyr commented.  “I was concerned you would not eat.  One of my officers said you would assume the food to be poisoned..”

“I’m at your mercy here,” Maychange said.  “If you wanted me dead, you’d kill me.  If you wanted to drug me, your doctor could do that without sneaking it into my food.”

“Very good, Captain Maychange,” N’gyr commented.  “It would be a shame to see good food wasted on baseless paranoia.”

Maychange chewed on a piece of bread.  “Don’t get me wrong.  Paranoia’s kept me alive a long time.  I just recognize what’s going on.”  Maychange used the bread to point around the room.  “A few days of absolute isolation, to get me attached to this room.  No one to talk to, but a few bit actors to remind me that you all want to play nice.”

N’gyr smiled patiently.  “Bit actors?”

“Yeah.  The girl with the food and the doctor.”  Maychange motioned to N’gyr.  “You as well.”

“Me?”  N’gyr looked up from his food, slightly offended.  “I would like to think I am more than just a bit actor.”

“Yes, but you have a bit to play.  You’re the good cop.”  Maychange recognized the look of confusion in N’gyr’s eyes.  “You’re my only friend on the ship.  You come in here, share my food, talk and  joke with me.  Later the men outside will drag me away, torture me for a while.”  Maychange took a bite between comments.  “Then they’ll throw me back on my comfy bed.  The shy girl will bring me food, and the muttering doctor will look over my wounds.  Come meal time, you’ll be here again.”

“Ah.”  N’gyr nodded his understanding.  “And then when I am here, I become a confidant, even though you think I am your enemy.  After you are tortured, of course.”  N’gyr shook his head.  “Were you expecting to be tortured Captain Maychange?  What would we hope to accomplish with such brutality?”

“You want to know where Clarisence is,” Maychange stated matter of fact.  “You at the very least want to know where Captain Hound and his resistors are.”

“Oh, I do,” N’gyr admitted.  “I want to know all that you know, and you will tell me.”  N’gyr waved off the comment as fact.  “But I will not resort to torture.”

“Is that so?”  Maychange leant back in his chair.  “I’m glad to hear it, even if I don’t believe it for a second.”

N’gyr laughed.  “Again.  What would I accomplish by torturing you, Captain Maychange?  If you were afraid, you would have already tried to make a deal.  You are not afraid, so I would have to break you.”  N’gyr shrugged.  “Even then, I would not be certain if you were telling me the truth, or if you were telling me what you thought I wanted to hear.”  N’gyr leant across the table to Maychange.  “It takes too much time to torture someone.  It is messy, and unreliable.”

“Nah keevas,” Maychange muttered.  He took small pleasure at the look of shock in N’gyr’s eyes.  That moment of pleasure vanished as N’gyr began to laugh.

“Captain Maychange,” N’gyr commented, still chuckling.  “You would need to have a uterus for me to do such horrible things for you.”  He watched as Maychange blinked confusion.  “You have no idea what you have said,” N’gyr stated.  “I assume that you have heard it from Clarisence Roccas?  Shame really, I would never expect such base language from a highborn such as her.”  N’gyr half shrugged.  “Children, right?  Would you like to know what you have said?  In your own language?”

“Not so much,” Maychange admitted.

“It is likely for the best,” N’gyr replied.  “It does not translate well to English.  It is a horrible act though, quite explicitly detailed.”  He smiled patronisingly at Maychange.  “Your language and mine are very different.  Jakara is a language of concept.  We can place entire ideas, full stories, in a few syllables.”

“Well,” Maychange said, “goody for you.”

N’gyr waved a hand in front of his mouth.  “This language, this English,” N’gyr commented.  “It is a blunt object.  It is like your race learnt to grunt on their way free of the ooze, and decided that it was enough.”  N’gyr’s features showed his distaste.  “The greatest works of your writers, your supposed poets, could be reduced to only a few syllables of Jakara.”

“That’s pretty impressive,” Maychange commented with no conviction.  “I can only imagine of course.  Well, imagine and grunt.”

N’gyr looked at Maychange, and smiled suddenly.  “Maychange,” he stated, “I think I may have a gift for you.”

“Nah, that’s ok.  I didn’t bring you anything.”

“Oh, you will like this,” N’gyr promised.

Two large Jakara troops stormed in, followed by the doctor.  The troops grabbed Maychange, and slammed his head to the table.  From his vantage, Maychange could see the doctor holding a pistol shaped tool.  It had a series of tubes filled with glowing blue liquid, and the nose was a bundle of twitching hooked needles.

“Thought you said you didn’t need torture,” Maychange grunted.  He never took his eyes off of the doctor’s equipment.

“This is not torture, Captain Maychange,” N’gyr assured him.  “This is a gift.  I have been told that the procedure is quite painful, and I must apologize for that.  Still, you must understand Captain Maychange, that this is for your own good.”

Maychange swore heavily; this time in English.  Any articulation he hoped to use vanished as the doctor got to work.  He brought the needle gun up to the side of Maychange’s neck, and Maychange could feel the intense heat from the equipment before the needles touched his skin.

Maychange tried not to scream as the needles dug into his neck.  They did more then tear at his flesh.  It felt like they were digging red hot filaments all the way to his brain.  He could feel the needles pumping the glowing blue liquid into the wounds.

N’gyr watched over the procedure’s beginning.  His look of mild interest was traded for one of slight disgust as Maychange threw up a vast portion of his lunch.  “I will leave you to this, Captain Maychange,” he announced, barely audible over Maychange’s screaming.  “I’ll speak to you once the doctor is done his work.  You’ll see then the wonders of this gift.”

Tales From the Bucket 31

Maychange watched across the slight clearing to the cargo ship.  There were several workers clearing the ship of its cargo; human by the looks of them.  He could see three Jakara troopers overseeing the work.  Cover was minimal, but the troops had been here for who knows how long.  Long enough, evidently, to become sloppy.  They never even looked in Maychange’s direction.

Small favor that, Maychange thought.  He blipped out a quick series of radio clicks, telling Chen as the work force finished unloading the cargo ship.  Maychange didn’t like the plan, though he couldn’t offer a better one.  There were too many parts of this mission that could go wrong.

Being outnumbered was only a small problem.  The difference between numbers meant little in this sort of mission.  Yes, there were about thirty Jakara.  Yes, Chen had a dime of hand chosen soldiers with him.  It didn’t make that much difference.  They weren’t meeting on the field, and hopefully, by the time the Jakara could rally together, their numbers would be severely dwindled.

One of the main problems was that by the time the Jakara were rallied, Chen would be in a defensive position, trying to protect a flock of civilians.  As soon as the shooting began, those civilians would panic.  Worse, they needed to be corralled into a cargo ship while under fire.  The ship was thankfully huge, but even then, if there were as many families as Randal had suggested, it was going to be a tight fit, and it was going to take some doing to get them all aboard.

Secondly, Quince and Clarisence needed to be on the ship by then.  It was a high hope that Quince would be able to figure out the controls fast.  He’d been practicing with the tank that they had back at camp, but that only gave him a rudimentary idea of how the Jakara controlled their vehicles.  A tank and a spaceship were going to have vastly different controls.

Clarisence could give him some pointers, but she was going to be busy herself.  Her job on this mission was to Fold the ship back to camp as soon as they had it in the air.  Maychange thought back to when she’d done the same trick with The Trebuchet.  It seemed so long ago.  Turns out that she’d done that in panic, and hadn’t planned out a route.  The math to Fold the ship to a set location was more complex, and something she had to prepare in her head.  Supposedly she had half the calculations done, but she still had to factor in the ship itself, and the weight of the cargo; something she couldn’t do until the civilians were aboard.

When the worker’s families came running, it was Maychange’s job with Sore and Reese to get them aboard quickly.  They had a strict deadline, and anyone on the wrong side of the cargo doors when they closed, be it civilian or soldier, was being left behind.  It was harsh, but necessary.  Common sense declared that someone on the Jakara side would call for reinforcements the moment a shot was fired.  Beyond the N’yarlath, no one knew what out there had Fold Engines, and they had to assume that additional Jakara troops were only a heartbeat away.

Too many factors.  If Quince or Clarisence didn’t get aboard, the mission failed.  If Chen or his men didn’t free the captives, the mission failed.  If Maychange, Sore and Reese couldn’t get the civilians on board before they were overrun by Jakara, or reinforcements Folded in, the mission failed.  Maychange didn’t like it.  He preferred either simple plans, or on the fly insanity.  Maychange wasn’t a fan of pre planned chaos.

The first explosion rocked the front gates, and was followed by three more.  Heavy ordinance; one of the best ways to say hello.  Maychange could hear the cracks of rifles as Chen’s men picked off the visible sentries before they could react.  At the landing zone, the three guards looked about in panic, already going for their weapons.

“Lets pare down the numbers a bit,” Maychange commented with a  nod.

Sore nodded back, and popped out of cover.  He brought his rifle around, and shot one of the cargo ship guards in the back of the head.  Reese and Maychange ran across the distance, quickly making range.  They fired simultaneously, both landing bullets into the same guard.  Reese and Maychange shared a quick look of annoyance; the old ‘that was my target’ look, as they re-aimed at the last guard.  He was already swinging his laser towards them.

One of the workers, a boy just out of his teens, swung a heavy box of supplies at the final guard.  He caught the Jakara by surprise, and shattered his nose with the supply crate.  The Jakara fell back, and was set upon by a crew of the workers.  By the time Maychange reached the scene, the troop was a bloody pulp.

The brave kid turned on Maychange as he approached, case held defensively.  “What’s going on?”

“We’re getting you all out of here,” Maychange replied.  He could hear the fighting getting closer, barely covered by the new sound of panic.  Chen must already have the civilians on the move, Maychange considered.  “We need to get you all aboard,” he commanded.

“On that?”  The kid shook his head.  “That’s our ride?”

Maychange looked at the kid.  “You have another ship hidden away?” he shrugged at the kid.  “Then yeah, that’s your ride.”

“It’ll do,” the teenage boy relented.  “Was just hoping you’d brought better.”

Maychange motioned to the cargo door, and loaded up the dock workers.  The kid, despite his mouth, insisted on staying out with Maychange and crew.  He was already waving in a few of the faster civilians before Maychange could even consider arguing the point.

Maychange, Reese and Sore guided families in as they came running, but found they were barely needed.  Everyone hopped aboard, and made proper room for each other immediately.  Sore scratched his head.  “This is too easy,”

Maychange called for Quince and Clarisence over the comm..  He watched as the civilians boarded.  “Too easy,” he admitted.  He soured at the thought.

“They’ve been practicing for this,” Reese commented.   She had her gun drawn, and was already stepping into a better position.

Maychange waved for Sore to fan out, and followed Reese’s lead.  The civilians were too well prepared, as if they’d been ready for this chance.  It was convenient, but lead to other problems.  Even the laziest of prison guards knew when something was up, and if the families were ready for this prison break, than so were the Jakara.

Maychange clicked on his radio.  “Chen, what’s your ETA?”

“Less than a minute,” Chen replied.  “Just rounding up a few stragglers.”  There was a pause.  “Maychange, we’re running into minimal opposition out here.  How’s things on your end?”

“Beyond smooth,” Maychange replied.  Chen and Maychange shared a moment of silence.  It wasn’t quiet contemplation over a job done well; it was the shared tension of two men waiting for the other shoe to drop.  “We’re fanning out now,” Maychange stated finally.  “We’ve got an eye on the area, ready to cover your squad.”

“We have some confirmed movement on all sides of you Maychange,” Chen declared.  “No engagement yet.  I think they’re corralling us in.”

“Makes sense,” Maychange agreed.  “We put the civilians in the cargo ship, safe from stray shots, and the Jakara can move on us with no fear of hurting them.  I think they want to avoid casualties; give the workers less reason to rebel.”  Maychange thought on it.  “I’m going to have Quince gun the engines a bit, make it clear that we’re leaving.  Maybe they’ll make their move.”

“Might as well anyways,” Chen replied.  “We’re coming around the corner now with the last of the cargo.”

Last of the cargo.  Maychange shook his head.  Clarisence was right, it did sound ridiculous.  He watched the rooftops of the nearby buildings, concerned about the confirmed movement that Chen had stated.  Maybe the Jakara were about, but they weren’t amateur enough to just poke their heads into sight.  Maychange gave the order, and Quince began priming the engines.  Around them, the civilians hurried their step, feeling the sudden urgency in the roar of the ship’s thrusters.  The straggling families hurried from over the ridge; Chen’s unit jogging behind.  The humans weren’t the only ones who felt the urgency.  The Jakara moved suddenly in full force; flanking Chen’s soldiers, and opening fire.

Maychange waved a last group of civilians aboard, and threw down some cover fire for Chen’s squad.  “Get aboard,” he commanded to Sore and Reese.  “I’m right behind you.”  He slapped the communicator on.  “Quince, start take-off!”

Quince didn’t bother with an answer.  The lift off thrusters flared, and the cargo door began to close as the ship lurched a few feet into the air.  Chen’s squad passed by, still firing at the oncoming Jakara troops.  They hopped one by one onto the closing gang plank.  Chen was the last in line, laying down cover fire for his men.

Chen took a shot to the leg, and tumbled down.  He rolled with the hit, and turned his gun on the oncoming Jakara troops.  Chen showed no sign of trying to follow.  Maychange took a quick look behind him.  The last of the squad was hopping up the closing cargo doors.  Maychange swore, and grabbed a concussion grenade off of the passing troop’s belt.  “Go,” he ordered as he turned back to Chen.

Maychange tore the pin from the grenade, and tossed it between Chen and the closing Jakara.  The grenade went off with a loud bang, and a bright flash.  The impact tossed a few of the Jakara back, and threw Chen towards Maychange.  Maychange was quick to close the distance.  He fired a few shots into a handful of Jakara troops that had avoided the worst of the concussion grenade’s effects.

“Damn it, Maychange!”  Chen grunted against the pain in his leg, and the daze of the concussion grenade.  “You knew the plan!”

“Yeah, but I’ve always been the no man left behind sort,” Maychange replied.  He pulled Chen to his feet.  “C’mon,” he ordered.  “Run, and grab the cargo door.  We should be able to tag along.”  Hopefully, Maychange added mentally.  He wasn’t sure if they’d be able to Fold with the ship simply by holding on, but he was hoping for the best.

Chen nodded, already breaking into a run.  He did a fine job of ignoring the smoking hole in his leg, likely running on pure adrenaline.  A small voice in the back of Maychange’s mind told him that that would hurt like hell in the morning.  Chen put an arm up to protect his eyes from the dirt blowing about from the ship’s lift thrusters, and leapt up at the ship.  He managed to grab the lip of the cargo hold.

Maychange ran close behind, and leapt as well.  Chen had already managed a better grip on the back of the cargo ship.  The ship was lurching further out of reach, and Commander Chen reached desperately for Maychange.  Maychange stretched his arm out, and felt his fingertips touch against Chen’s.

A stray laser bolt took Maychange in the shoulder, and twisted him in the air.  He closed his hands on empty air before he slammed painfully down on the ground.  Jakara troops dog-piled him immediately.  The last thing Maychange saw was the flash of the cargo ship vanishing, just before he took a rifle butt between the eyes.

By the time Maychange regained his senses, he was already bound and being dragged across the compound.  He was tossed roughly to his knees in front of a well dressed Jakara officer.  Maychange didn’t know the Jakara ranking system, but the chest of this officer had enough pips and bars to mark him as pretty important in any military language.

The officer stared at Maychange with disdain.  Around Maychange, the troops gave reports that Maychange couldn’t understand.  The officer nodded sharply to the men on occasion, never taking his eyes off of Maychange.

“My men are telling me that you were a leader in this attack on our facility,” the officer explained.  He spoke in a thick accent, and hung long on most of his words.

Maychange mentally noted that Clarisence didn’t have the same accent.  He wondered idly if it was because she’d picked the language from his head.  “You speak English,” Maychange questioned the officer.

“It’s not that impressive,” the officer replied.  “Yours is a simple, blunt language.  It isn’t that hard to learn.”  He waved off the comment.  “Now, you are important to the resistance of this planet?”

Maychange considered his options quickly.  “I don’t think so,” he replied.  “I’m just a junk captain.  You shot my ship down, and I ended up helping my fellow men.  I’m not a soldier.  That’s why I was left with loading duties.”  Maychange tried to shrug, but was stopped by shots of pain from his wounded shoulder.  “Before that, I saw this sector as a salvage gold mine.”  Maychange smirked.  “A man with my lot takes whatever is given, and your little war gives plenty of scrap.  I’m only here because I got greedy, and you got trigger happy.”

“Is that so?”  The officer turned away, already unimpressed.  He spoke to his men in Jakara, and waved away his prisoner.  Maychange was lifted to his feet, and nearly dragged away.

“Wait,” The officer stated.  He stared at where the cargo ship had been, the same cargo ship that had recently vanished.   He motioned to his men, and they slammed Maychange back to his knees.  The officer looked Maychange over, his eyes lighting up as he really took in the man in front of him. “Well, here you are.  It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Captain Maychange.”

Tales From the Bucket 30

The skimmer was abandoned three kilometres out from the target.  It was always meant to be a one way trip, and this mission either succeeded with a new ride, or it failed.  Coming home empty handed was literally not an option.

They’d ditched the skimmer, and walked the rest of the way to the compound.  The trees had slimmed out, but cover was still ample, even up to the parameter of the small factory complex.  It wasn’t a military target normally, and wasn’t built for security.

Not that that meant this would be an easy job.  Maychange watched through a pair of binoculars as a pair of Jakara troops walked along the roof of one of the larger factory buildings.  The compound may not have been a military establishment before, but the Jakara military was there now.

Chen patted Maychange on the back, and gestured him back into cover.  He knelt close, careful to talk only in whisper, despite still being nearly a kilometre from target.  “You sure your crew can handle this?”

“Not my crew I’m worried about,” Maychange replied.

Chen ignored the snide comment, and began scribbling a map of the compound onto the ground.  He gathered up some small rocks to use as markers.  “We’ve counted near twenty confirmed individual Jakara on the premises.  We need to assume another ten that we can’t see.”

“Confirmed individual’s,” Clarisence repeated.  “I would have thought we all look alike to you.”

“Most of you do,” One of Chen’s squadron replied.  It was the same woman that had adopted keevas into her vocabulary.  She gave Clarisence a crooked smile.  “You’re only an exception because you’re too short to be a trooper.”

Chen waved off the conversation briskly; in full command mode.  He placed his collection of rocks out, marking out where the troops were seen, and what their patrol routes looked like.  He pointed to a large clearing on his map.  “This is where the cargo ship will be coming in, if our source is correct.”  Chen looked at Maychange.  “It will be your crew’s job to secure that ship.  Remember though, we need that cargo ship clear, so don’t move on it till it’s been unloaded.”

“Yes,” Sore commented from nearby.  “Because we are amateurs.”

Chen gave Sore a look that bordered between apologetic and annoyed.  “It never hurts to make sure everyone is on the same page,” he noted crisply.  He didn’t leave an opening for additional comment.  “While you are securing the cargo ship, my crew will be moving in here.”  Chen pointed to the other side of his makeshift map.  “We’ll be coming in hot, so you shouldn’t have much opposition on your side.  We will collect up the new cargo, so be ready for immediate lift-off.”

Chen looked up at Clarisence.  “Your part,” he questioned.  “You can be prepared immediately, or do you need time?”

Clarisence pulled her mouth into a tight line.  She’d been pretty quiet for the past few days, and whatever it was that she wanted to say was boiling slowly to the surface.  “I can be ready immediately,” she stated.

The radio on Chen’s side flickered for a second, then stopped.  It did this twice; the signal from his scouts.  “Alright, cargo ship’s coming in,” Chen announced.  He looked over at Maychange.  “Get in position.  Good luck.”

The Trebuchet crew slid away from the Military troops, circling the facility in a wide circle.  They stayed in cover, and did the best version of stealth they knew.  Stealth for the crew didn’t include silence.

“Why does Chen keep calling the people ‘the cargo’,” The Girl asked quietly.  “I mean, we all know that they’re people.  It’s not like he’s going to come running over and surprise us.”

“Just Military jargon,” Sore suggested.  “Chen’s a commander.  He’s probably been talking like that for the last decade.”

“You don’t think of people in war,” Quince explained.  “They’re cargo so you don’t become attached.  If they were people, some troops might risk the mission just to save one of them that fell behind.”  Quince shrugged.  “Same reason the enemy is only the enemy.  If you thought about them as people with homes and families, you might not pull the trigger fast enough.”

“It’s not that simple,” Sore muttered.

“Really?”  Quince smiled cockily.  “You tell that to the cargo when it’s received.”

“It’s not important what we call them,” Reese stated, ending the chatter.  “It’s only important that we do our part, and get them out of here.”

Maychange nodded a quick agreement; not towards either side of the conversation, only at the end of it.  They were getting close to the facility, and they couldn’t risk getting seen or heard now.

The truck driver they’d brought back to camp had been gold indeed.  Mr. Randal had informed Captain Hound of this facility, and its current use.  If Mr. Randal’s information was correct, this facility was now a holding cell.  Not for any of the workers, but for their families.  The prisoners were being treated well enough, but it had been made clear that that would only continue so long as the workers on the planet factories, and the space ship yard continued to do their jobs satisfactorily.  The Jakara was using the families as leverage to get a skilled labour force in earth space.

From the rear, Quince whispered something to Clarisence.  Maychange missed the exact words, but he got the gist of it from the shock and anger in The Girl’s features as she responded.

“I’m not still miffed that Hound told Chen I can Fold without an engine,” Clarisence replied to Quince coldly.  “I’m horrified that Hound knows I can do it at all.”  She stared forward, careful to keep under cover even as she stomped about.  “That man was willing to torture me to find out about my father’s work.  Do you believe he’d think twice before strapping me to the engines?”

“Obviously he wouldn’t,” Quince agreed quickly.  “I mean, it’s part of the plan.”

“It’s a major part of the plan,” Maychange growled.  “The other part is not giving away our location.”  He watched as Quince and Clarisence visibly shut up.  Sore and Reese were already moving into position near the edge of the parameter.  “You two hold back here,” Maychange reminded them.  “You move when I give you the signal.  Until then, keep quiet.”  Satisfied with their nods, Maychange moved to join Reese and Sore.

So, bit behind on the posts…

…Yeah, about that.

Things have been a bit up in the air here, as I work towards a few bits of awesome in my life.  Some involve my book, The Amelia Academy: Standards, and some involve life things in general.  Problem is , these things have been time consuming, and I’ve fallen a bit behind.

Don’t worry, it’s temporary.  I’ll be back on track on Monday, with a new chapter of Tales From the Bucket.  Until then, please enjoy this few days to contemplate what’s happened so far.

Or get caught up on cleaning or something.  I don’t know, and I don’t judge.

See you all Monday

-Paul Mundane

Tales From the Bucket 29

The skimmer hovered just above the trees.  Quince made it look easy, but there was a lot to staying just above the forest while staying just below radar.  It was a bulky misshapen ship, and skill or not, everyone held their breath whenever he dipped into the tree-line to avoid enemy contact.

Quince had to tip the ship sideways to fit its giant side fans between the trees, and everyone was again shuffled about in their seats.  Maychange nearly landed on Sore’s lap, unnoticed by the big man.  Sore slept soundly, despite the rocking of the ship.

Reese slammed hard enough into Maychange to be tilted sideways, her one leg draped across his lap.  There was a whine of metal as she shot her hand out, and braced against the far wall of the ship near Sore’s face.  He still snored his oblivion.  Maychange had put out an arm to catch her instinctually, and the two were tangled up.

“Hi,” Maychange offered.

“Hi,” Reese agreed grudgingly.

Maychange looked at her leg.  “We should probably stop meeting like this,”

“I couldn’t agree more captain,” Reese stated.  She stared at the troops sitting across from them, daring any of them to comment.

Chen’s squadron gripped their roof straps tightly, and looked out the open side door, now directly below them, with mild concern.  They had little interest in Reese and Maychange.  Reese grabbed a hanging strap with her free hand, and used it to pull herself free from Maychange.  Free of her captain, Reese looked forward, and went back into whatever thoughts she was lost in.

Maychange pulled free of Sore, and did the same.  Two more days of this, Maychange thought. Two more days of attempting to move a short range skimmer across a continent.  It was day two as it was, and everyone was already getting edgy.  The last two days consisted of sitting, standing, and being rudely jostled by sudden drops into the trees.  Quince only landed to refuel from tanks strapped to the roof.  They hadn’t stopped to camp, and the only sleep available was in your seat, or if you were brave enough, in one of the hanging cargo nets.

Maychange looked up towards the cockpit.  Quince looked back at him, and shrugged.  “Sorry captain,” Quince noted.  “We’ve got some movement out there,”

“I know the drill,” Maychange grumbled.  Every time The Girl caught a transmission, they dipped into the trees.  They didn’t stop though; it was going to take long enough to get to their target.  Still, they spent more time sideways dodging trees than they spent in the open air.

“I know the drill,” Maychange repeated.  “You just worry about your flying.”

“That would need me to worry,” Quince joked, still looking back.  “Flying a brick through a forest?  Just another day,”

Maychange bit back a comment about how well flying through a forest had gone last time.  He just pointed for Quince to watch where he was going.  The gesture was punctuated by Clarisence crying out from the passenger seat.  Quince looked forward, and hummed frantically.  He jerked the ship immediately to the right, barely avoiding the oncoming giant pine.

The sudden shift of the hover jolted everyone, and lifted them from their chairs.  Maychange floated a second from his seat, and was deposited in Sore’s lap.  Reese shot towards the two.  She reached out to push against the wall, but her aim was off, and she ended up sticking her arm out the open side door.

Maychange shifted quickly to catch her.  He ended up with a knee to his groin for the trouble.  He exhaled sharply, vision full of white spots even as Reese’s full weight was smashed into him.  He spent a good bit of time holding onto Reese, and trying not to move in the slightest.

“Captain?” Reese questioned quietly.

“No, it’s ok,” Maychange replied weakly.  “I just need a moment to recover.”  He opened his eyes.  Reese was face to face with him, looking both annoyed and aghast at him.  “That really hurt,” Maychange admitted.

“And I’m sorry,” Reese commented.  “But you really, really need to let go of me now.  This is,” Reese looked for a suitable word.  “This is inappropriate.”

Maychange looked down at where Reese was pressed against him.  He’d managed to get a hand between them, and was holding Reese by the left breast.  Worse, his other hand was wrapped behind her, and he wasn’t as sure as he’d been a moment ago that he was gripping the back of her leg.  Or at least he wasn’t gripping it as low as he’d assumed.

Maychange sputtered some quick half apologies.  “We’ve really got to…”

“…Stop meeting like this,” Reese finished.  “Yeah, I got that.”

Reese tried to move from Maychange.  Her shift of weight caused a new wave of dull pain to Maychange as her knee reminded him of where it was.  Maychange gripped Reese tighter, stopping her from moving.  Reese simultaneously blushed, and stared murder at Maychange.

“Captain,” Reese growled.

“I know,” Maychange replied.  “It’s just…”  He didn’t get much further, as Sore shifted under them.

Sore half opened his eyes.  “Hi,” he muttered to both Maychange and Reese.

“Hi,” Maychange offered.

“Hi,” Reese agreed.

“You two think you two can take this to your own seat?” Sore suggested.  “I’m trying to get some sleep here.”

Reese stared indignantly at Maychange and she climbed off of him.  She rubbed her chest, and tugged her shirt straight.  Maychange shuffled gingerly off of Sore’s lap, every shift bringing a nauseating shot of pain from his groin.  Sore chuckled at the two of them before closing his eyes again.  Maychange looked across the bay at Chen’s squadron.  They’d been fully paying attention this time.  Two more days, Maychange thought again.  He could feel the ship balancing itself out again.

“I think we’re clear,” Clarisence stated.  She took off her headphones for the moment.  “I’m just getting regular chatter; flight path, coordinates, that sort of thing.  Nothing that suggests they’ve seen us.”

“Unless they’re lying of course,” Chen commented from the netting.  He’d been up there for the past day, going out of his way to look comfortable.  Even now, he had his hands folded under his head, and his legs crossed lazily.  He smiled down at the crew beneath him.  “They know that our Captain speaks the language,” Chen commented.  “They’re the ones that taught him.”

“Yeah, they know,” Clarisence replied.  “That’s why they’re not talking in common Jakara.”  Clarisence put the headphones back on, covering only one ear.  “Every transmission I’ve caught has been in High Jakara.  It’s not the same.”  She gave Maychange a smile.  “They might as well be speaking Japanese, far as Hound could tell.”

Captain Hound speaks Japanese,” Commander Chen replied.

“Yeah.  Well.  Good for him,” Clarisence shot back.  She shrugged at her lack of snide commentary.  “It’s not the point.”

Maychange thought on it.  “The point would be that they still don’t know we’re here.  They don’t know that The Girl is in your camp, or they’d have switched to actual code.”

“Exactly,” Clarisence agreed.  It hadn’t actually been her point, but she was willing to run with it.

“For the best really,” Reese agreed.  “If they knew that Clarisence was here, the Jakara would send more troops.  They’d scour the planet, not just send out the occasional search ship.”

“They’ll know when we’re done this mission,” Maychange commented.  He looked up at Chen.  “Soon as we’re done here, it’s going to become a complete cluster.  I just hope that Hound knows what he’s doing.”

Tales From the Bucket 28

Maychange sat at the mess table.  He listened at Sore recalled their successful ambush yet again to Chen’s squad.  Maychange had been patted on the back by troops so many times now, he thought he might be developing a bruise.  It likely didn’t match the bruise forming across his face.  He ate hardily from a tin plate; potatoes and some sort of meat.  Maychange wasn’t sure what animals lived on Rigel, but it tasted like chicken.  Then again, every unrecognizable meat tended to.

Chen took a seat across from Maychange, and put a bottle down on the table.  He was sporting a pretty good shiner.  “You didn’t have to hit me,” Chen commented.

“Yes I did,” Maychange replied.  He ran a hand under his nose, wiping away a new streak of blood.  “You didn’t have to hit me back.”

“Yes I did,” Chen said.  He filled his glass, and pushed the bottle across the table to Maychange.  Commander Chen shook his head.  “You brought back a freaking tank,” he commented.

Maychange smiled.  “Part of the mission,” he declared casually.  He filled his cup, and slid the bottle to Sore.

Sore filled his cup without losing pace on his story, and passed the bottle to Reese.  He was just rolling into the part of the story where he shot the tank driver, and showed no sign of slowing.

“It was a stupid, dangerous plan,” Reese commented as she filled her cup, and passed the bottle on.  She stared daggers at Maychange.  “The fact that it succeeded does not change that.”

Quince took the bottle, and filled his and Clarisence’s cups.  “It makes all the difference,” he noted.  “If we’d died, that would have been the expected.  Instead, we brought home a tank.”

“That’s not the point,” Reese commented.

“No, it’s a fair point,” Commander Chen stated.  He looked over at Maychange.  “We didn’t expect you to die, but we did expect you to limp home, empty handed.  Instead, you brought us a tank.”  Chen rubbed his eye.  “And then you punched me.”

Maychange nodded.  “Part of the mission,” he mentioned.

“well, lousy traitors or not, you’ve earned this,” Chen said.  He raised his glass.  “To a successful mission, despite all odds.”  The rest of the table raised their glasses, and cheers to Maychange’s success.

Clarisence watched as the troops emptied their cups, and downed her drink as they did.  Her face immediately crumpled.  “Keevas,” she commented.

“Keevas,” one of the Chen’s troops mimicked.  “What does that mean?”

Clarisence stared at the woman, and blushed deeply.  “It, uh, it doesn’t translate well,” she muttered.

“Profanity,” Sore explained.  “First thing you learn in a new language.”

“Keevas,” the private repeated.  A few others at the table tried the word out around her.  “Good.  Now the enemy will know what I mean when I’m yelling at them.”

Captain Hound limped to the table, and sat down at the head.  “Well, glad to see everyone getting along so well.”  The bottle immediately slid its way across the table to him.  “You did good work today Maychange.  Better than you probably know.”

“Better than I know?”  Maychange motioned for the bottle.  “There gold in them crates?”

Hound slid the bottle across the table.  “No gold,” he admitted.  “Nothing of use in your little delivery at all really.  The physical part of it anyways.”  Hound watched Maychange sour, and explained.  “The supplies are ship parts.  We ain’t rebuilding ships here, so they’re not much use to us.”

Quince looked up from his cup.  “We brought you a tank,” he commented.  He saw the look Hound gave him, and quickly added “sir,” to the end of his sentence.

“It’s a nice tank,” Captain Hound commented.  “But we’re running a stealth mission here.  As much fun as a tank might seem, it’s not a great guerrilla warfare weapon.”  Hound pounded back his drink.  “Mr. Randall though?  That’s your gold.”

Maychange nodded before he thought about the words.  “Mr. Randall?”

“Truck driver,” Reese noted casually.  She chuckled at Maychange.  “The truck driver we brought back?  He introduced himself three times.”

“I was distracted,” Maychange admitted.

“Thinking about punching me,” Chen added.

“Thinking about punching you,” Maychange agreed.  “What does Mr. Randall have for us?”

“Information,” Hound replied.  “Information that leads us to more work.  We can talk work after dinner.”

The private that had been so excited about learning how to swear in Jakara turned to Clarisence.  “Is it true your dad invented Fold Technology?”

Clarisence stopped mid bite.  She fumbled with an answer for a moment.  “Yes,” she declared quietly.

“That’s amazing,” the private commented.  “And you know how to make them to?  You could get one back on The Vigilance?”

“I can’t,” Clarisence told the table.  “I made…”

“A promise,” Hound cut in.  “Ms. Roccas promised to never share her father’s work.”  He growled under his breath.  “No offence girl,” he told Clarisence, “but I don’t think you understand fuck all about what your father wanted.”

Clarisence recoiled as if slapped.  “Nah Keevas.  Soto dah k’nedah pah Hound,” she declared.  She shook her head, and switched to English.  “You don’t have the right to talk about my father.  You don’t know anything.”

“I know plenty,” Hound replied.  “You promised your father that you wouldn’t let his precious invention fall into military hands.”

“It’s more than just an invention,” Clarisence snapped.  “It’s an entire new way of looking at, at everything,”  She frowned.  “It’s…”

“It’s tattooed across your body,” Hound interrupted.  He rubbed his neck.  “These bioluminescent tattoos hurt like a bitch to get.  Mine still aches when the weather goes bad.  But you?  You’re covered with them.”  Hound gave a sympatric smile, or at least as close as his scars allowed.  “That has to hurt.”

Clarisence opened her mouth to respond twice, and closed it each time.  She finally settled on looking at the table.  “I’ve grown used to them,” she admitted.  She looked up with defiance at Hound.  “It was important, and I wear them proud.”

“So you do,” Hound agreed.  “And, yeah, you want to keep it from the Military.  I understand that better than you think.  I know exactly what we’d do with the information.”  He looked across the table at Clarisence.  “Your father died to keep that information from your military, and I get that too.  Some things are worth dying for.  Ideals are high on that list.”

Clarisence blinked.  “If you understand, then you know why I don’t share my father’s work.”

“No, I don’t,” Hound told her.  “See, that’s where your promise breaks down.  Your dad could have let the information die there.  We’d have a handful of Fold Engines to deal with, but that would be the end of it.  Instead he tattoos his project onto his daughter, painfully I might add, and sends her out into unknown space with a promise to protect his work.”  Hound shook his head.  “You know who you’re protecting his work from, but I don’t think you have the slightest idea who you’re protecting his work for.”  Hound snatched up the quickly emptying bottle, and refilled his cup.  “I’m not even sure your father knew.”

Every eye was on The Girl.  She stuttered, and failed to find an answer to Hound’s comments.  Maychange watched as she glanced back and forth like a caged animal.  He hadn’t known that her tattoos were painful, but he was sure they ached more now that she was thinking of them.  The thoughts of her father probably weren’t helping.  “You said that Mr. Randall had information?” he said, drawing what attention he could from Clarisence.

Hound looked at Maychange, and nodded an unspoken agreement to drop the subject.  “Fine, lets get to business then gentlemen.”

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